Introduction to Translators

  • In computing, translators refer to software that convert program code written in a high-level language into machine code that the computer can execute directly.
  • The three main types of translators are: compilers, interpreters and assemblers.
  • Each type of translator functions differently and is used in different contexts depending on the requirements of the program.


  • A compiler translates the entire high-level program code into machine code before the program is run.
  • The output of a compiler is called the object code or executable code. It can be saved and run on its own.
  • Compiled programs generally run faster as the translation process happens only once, before execution.
  • However, debugging a compiled program can be harder because the error message may not directly match the source code.


  • An interpreter translates the high-level program code into machine code line by line as the program is running.
  • Interpreted programs can be easier to debug, as error messages directly link to a line of source code.
  • However, they run slower compared to compiled programs, as interpretation happens during run-time.


  • An assembler translates assembly language, a low-level programming language, into machine code.
  • Each instruction in assembly language corresponds to exactly one machine instruction, so the translation process is simple and straightforward.
  • Assembled programs are often used for system-level programming, where direct control over hardware is required.

Role in Software Development

  • Translators play an essential part in software development. They allow programmers to write in high-level languages that are easier to understand and maintain, while still producing machine code that computers can execute.
  • The choice of translator – whether it is a compiler, interpreter, or assembler – often depends on factors such as the programming language being used, execution speed requirements and ease of debugging.