ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

Translation vs Interpretation: What's the Difference?

With 67.3 million U.S. residents speaking a language other than English at home, the question isn’t whether language access or meeting the multicultural healthcare requirements of patients and members with limited English proficiency (LEP) is necessary. The key questions are which services should you make available, and how should you provide them?

Offering language solutions to members and patients with LEP is much more than checking boxes. It makes a difference in the health of the population you serve and in your organization’s bottom line. It’s well documented that those with limited English proficiency have greater risk of infections, falls, longer hospital stays, surgical delays, and readmissions, all of which can compromise service quality and increase costs.


Interpretation Versus Translation

The two most basic language solutions that help healthcare practitioners and those with LEP communicate with each other are interpretation and translation. But, what’s the difference? You might have even used the terms interchangeably, perhaps saying “I need a translator,” when you really meant, “I need an interpreter.”



Interpreters help people who speak different languages communicate in person or via the phone or technology, like video. From emergency medical calls to business transactions, clear and precise oral communication is vital.

For interpreting, you’ll need a team who can handle the most prevalent languages spoken in your area. Some metropolitan areas require proficiency in dozens -- if not hundreds – of major languages.

Additionally, for something as unpredictable as healthcare, interpreters should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over-the-phone, simultaneous, video-remote and in-person interpreting services.

From a life sciences perspective, interpreters are a key factor for both success and compliance. Imagine you are in the middle of a clinical trial and your subject has a bad reaction. You don’t want language to be the barrier for getting in contact with the head researcher. Or your medical device has just been received in a new market and the practitioner has questions about usage. They may need an interpreter to contact the device company.

The latest interpreting technology isn’t just an invaluable patient service, it helps your team meet industry compliance standards and allows you to expand your reach.



Oftentimes when we think of a language barrier, speaking and oral communication comes to mind. But what about all the written communications that are a part of the member and patient experience? That’s where translation comes into the picture.

Language translation refers to converting the written word from one language to another. In healthcare, it includes after-visit summaries, prescriptions, Estimation of Benefits (EOB), Annual Notice of Change (ANOC), doctors’ notes, patient instructions and any other document used to communicate during a member or patient’s journey.

Accurate language translation is key to ensuring medicines are taken as prescribed, care instructions are followed and follow-up visits are scheduled. Effective translation starts with language experts who understand your industry. Look for a company who requires their linguists to undergo rigorous training to meet medical qualifications, to make sure they consistently deliver the quality of work you deserve and are proficient in cutting-edge translation technology.


Language Solutions for Healthcare

A language barrier impacts patient or member’s comprehension of medical condition, treatment plan, discharge instructions, medication compliance, adequate preparation for tests and procedures, and reliable informed consent. Reliable, easy-to-use interpretation and translation services can make a huge difference and result in LEP patients getting the care and outcomes they deserve.

Language Solutions for Life Sciences

At United Language Group we pride ourselves in being industry experts, so you don’t need to take the time to bring us up to speed on regulations, industry-specific guidelines, and the strictest global requirements. We understand scientific language and processes as well as the intricacies of settings in which your translations may be used. 

To learn more about how Language Solutions can enhance your practice, Contact us for a free, no obligation business analysis. ULG: Your Language Resource.  

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