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Balancing speed with accuracy in the world of translation

Balancing speed with accuracy in the world of translation [Photo: alexsl via iStock]
in Language Connect

Quality and accuracy are of the utmost importance in any translation process. If something is ever incorrectly translated, it can lead to a multitude of problems and miscommunications, so it's always crucial that any translation service provides flawless transcripts that are a perfect reproduction of the original text. 

However, in some sectors, accuracy is not perhaps the most important consideration, falling behind speed in terms of how vital it is. These can include:

  • Pharmacovigilance – Where things need to be turned around often in a matter of hours to be able to compile reports to send regulators
  • Business deals – Where contracts need to be translated, signed and sent back within short periods of time to make sure deals are pushed through
  • Law – Particularly in any cross border cases, it's important that any documentation and evidence be translatable in very short timescales to be able to continue with cases

That's not to say that accuracy is not highly valued, however. It's less about prioritising one over the other, and more about being able to find the balance that allows the translation to perfectly deliver what the client needs. 

There are many reasons why accuracy is an important consideration in the world of translation. Regardless of sector and reason for a translation being made, it's vital that those speaking the target language do not lose any of the meaning of the original documentation, and that's where expert translators come in. 

Whether it's making sure that all industry terminology used throughout is translated accurately to the target language without losing any of its meaning, or ensuring that any local dialect and slang does not get lost in the translation process, it's vital that a translator gets things right first time. That's why anyone carrying out a translation for a client needs to be not only an expert in both the original and target languages, but also the sectors they are translating for. 

This is particularly important in areas such as law and medicine, where much of the terminology is specific to those sectors and not really applicable in any other walk of life. In these cases, it's essential that the translator be able to flawlessly carry any meaning over into the finished product. 

The importance of accuracy goes into the business world as well. According to the Financial Times, more than 40 per cent of all deals across the globe (worth approximately $900 billion per year) are carried out cross border. In many of these deals, translation will be important in making sure that they can be finalised, so it's important on a global economic scale that accuracy in translation allows barriers to be broken down between companies and decision makers. 


As mentioned above, however, there's always more than just accuracy to contend with in translation terms, specifically when it comes to sectors where there is a pressing need to get on with things. 

This can include pharmacovigilance, where documents need to be translated from any number of languages from around the world, compiled into reports, and then sent back out within a matter of days and even hours, to make sure clients are not being fined or punished for missing deadlines. 

And it's the same in other sectors as well. While accuracy is obviously still important, in many legal cases, things will need to be translated almost overnight to make sure that no time is lost in making or breaking a case.

Ensuring translators are able to work at pace is difficult, but also has similar requirements to making sure they are accurate. Having access to someone who is fluent in both target and original languages, as well as being an expert in the sector they are translating for, means being able to provide very short turnaround times for stuff that would take even longer elsewhere. 

And of course, this all needs to be done without increasing the risk of a loss of accuracy. If companies are unable to see the value of your translation in terms of making things happen – be it business deals or otherwise – then speed of translation will not mean a thing up against accuracy. 

In the world of translation, regardless of the sector involved, there will be a struggle between timeliness and accuracy. Some sectors will need to have more pressing translations carried out than others, but speed will always be an important factor. Obviously, it's also imperative that translations are accurate as well, however, so it's striking the right balance and finding the right quality to allow this balance to flourish that s the key to success.

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