Speed or quality ā€“ what is more important?

15. December 2021

We live in a world that could best be described with the word ‘right now’. We are used to everything being done immediately and quickly. Done! Another task crossed off the list, another job done, and time to move on to the next missions. Productivity and efficiency – hooray! We are the fastest and the best! But is speed really the twin brother of high quality?

When I was studying to become a translator at university, I always had a wonderful picture painted in my mind that, of course, had to reflect what was happening in the real world. First of all, the client looks for a translator, meets them, they discuss all the terminological and contextual matters (not to mention the philosophical aspects), and then the translator starts to work. Let us imagine that there are two pages of text to be translated. The translator spends one day translating, the second day analysing, then takes a short stroll around the local park on the third day, re-reads the text on the fourth day, and on the fifth day the client receives the text. The life of a translator is truly fascinating! You can delve into the text, analyse it, and philosophise. Just as you imagine it to be.

Then, however, came the sobering reality: time is no longer equal to money, but a luxury! Because the client is in a hurry and it does not matter – make it fast! It is a matter of life and death! Help, we are running out of time! There is, of course, nothing surprising about this, as it is the daily life of translators, as well as many other professionals, and over time people adapt and learn to find ingenious ways to speed up the work process and maintain the quality of translation. Smart IT professionals have developed programmes for translators which, if used skilfully, ensure that ‘the wolves are fed and sheep are safe’. It is important to keep up with the world, but there is always food for thought that changing the world starts with oneself.

However, if we look at the entire process from the perspective of a sworn translation, at first glance it does not seem very different from a ‘regular’ translation service. After all, the work is essentially the same. Indeed, it is possible to use translation software, or CAT tools when translating a document and, depending on the translator’s competence, to speed up the work process, i.e., the translator is able to search for information and make connections faster than average thanks to their experience. However, the formalities involved in a sworn translation service are often forgotten.

First of all, it is necessary to find out what purpose the translation is needed for and whether it will be attached to the original document or a certified copy. Secondly, one needs to know whether the document needs apostille or legalisation, the former requiring the involvement of a notary and the latter the involvement of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (we will be sure to discuss these procedures in future posts). The most important thing, of course, is that the translation is of high quality. So if we look at the bigger picture of the entire work process, then we see that it requires excellent planning and time management skills. Here, I do not refer to the fact that a sworn translator should dictate a particularly long deadline in order to twiddle their thumbs for a few days and make the client wait, but it is good for the client to be aware of what the job entails and why rushing is more likely to do harm than good.

As a sworn translator, I always want to ensure a work process that is most convenient for the client. This means that the client does not have to worry about whether the translation will be of high quality and whether all legal requirements have been met. If necessary, on the one hand, I may provide advice to the client on exactly what to do with the document and where to go next. But, on the other hand, as a sworn translator, I expect the client to understand that the work is time-consuming and that mistakes can be made in haste, which are much more costly to correct later. Once such a mutual understanding has been reached, the sworn translator can ensure the best possible result.

Siret Laasner

Siret Laasner

senior translator