Back translation – What is it, and how is it done?

What is back translation?

Back translation is not merely translating back and forth.
Back translation is defined as: a procedure whereby a translator (or team of translators) interpret or re-translate a document that was previously translated into another language, back to the original language.

What do I need to know about the back translation method?

A back translation is usually performed by a translator who was not involved in the original translation into the target language. This person would have no prior knowledge of the objectives or its specific context, therefore a back translation will never be 100% exactly the same as the original source text. It is a quality assessment tool that can be used both by clients and translation agencies/translators.

A translator will perform a back translation as literally as possible to give an accurate depiction of the exact meaning of the translation in the target language. It does take extra time in the overall process, but it can be a way of preventing errors in the final target language translation, especially for critical decision-making texts.

Why would the back translation tool be useful for me?

It helps to identify any confusion, ambiguities or errors that may arise from the nuances of language and helps to evaluate the equivalence of meaning between the source and target texts.

By comparing the back translation to the original text, the quality and accuracy of the translation into another language can be confirmed.
This is especially important when every small detail counts and a guarantee of quality, precision and accuracy is required.

What type of documents benefit from back translation?

Ideally, anyone who has high value content could benefit from including a back translation and reconciliation as part of the translation process such as:

  1. Pharmaceutical companies
  2. Medical device companies
  3. Clinical research organizations

These types of content include: clinical trial documents, marketing materials, forms (including medical and informed consent), surveys, questionnaires, protocols, ads, assessments, reports, marketing materials, other content including sensitive or high risk information.

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