3 methods in learning Spanish: Translation, interpretation and transcription

When looking up for that word that has endless meaning or you just don’t know what it means, what do you do? Do you run to your electronic dictionary tucked away in your pocket or cellular phone?

Or, better yet, do you have an electronic device that translates words for you? But let’s consider that using translators has to be the last resort to use when trying to figure out the meaning of a word.


Translate derives from the Latin L. translatus and trans- means across. Hence, translate signifies to move across to another place or to write or speak words into another language. Some translators may not even translate the word properly and others may not be in tune with the cultural aspect of the foreign language.

  • For example, if you’re trying to translate the Spanish word taco, it can be translated into several ways:
  • Mexican dish, shoe heel, a wad of papers, book, cue, cube, and many more.
  • Imagine if you’re trying to write a paper or essay and need to use the word taco. Which one would you use?

Which one would you know to use? You have to use a different source such as an encyclopedia or an educational Internet website. As a matter of fact, translators should be used very rarely in conversations, meetings, or speeches. In these cases, interpreters should translate with accuracy from one language to another.



Interpretation derives from the Latin L. interpres to negotiate and inter- means between or among. Hence, interpretation is to explain or provide one’s interpretation of something. In this case, interpreters are an excellent source to provide proper information about a word or phrase based on the cultural experience.

Interpreters can provide the necessary tools to translate that unknown word, phrase, or article and give it the right meaning. But you don’t have to solely rely on a person to interpret a translation of a word.

  • Sometimes, to gather information about certain words and phrases can come from attending Spanish classes or immersion classes.
  • To grasp a better understanding of the language, it is even better to live it – in foreign exchange classes.
  • Sometimes you might need a transcription of certain words or phrases.


Transcription derives from the Latin trans, which means over and scribere, which means to write. In other words, transcription is the ability to make a written recording or copy of words. Transcripts are more commonly used in court hearings or medical professionals.

Court reporters or stenographers use a special device called stenography to record all court events. Medical transcriptionists convert medical recordings to text. Transcripts also transcribe Spanish textbooks or workbooks.

The authors may transcribe recording notes. But Spanish learners would rarely use this type of language learning method.

Translation, interpretation, and transcription denote different meanings in many cases. Which one would you use to better represent that unknowingly word or phrase? It all depends on how you want to use it in context.

What method have you used recently to learn Spanish?

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

Blog Categories

Get Your Free Spanish Sight Words Workbook

Subscribe to our Spanish Sight Words newsletter and receive a free workbook. The booklet consists of writing practiceclassroom labels, and activities.

Spanish Nursery Rhymes for Preschoolers

Subscribe and receive your Free Spanish Nursery Rhymes for Preschoolers Workbook.