Monday, September 9, 2013

Back translation – what is it and when is it needed?

A back translation, which is sometimes also referred to as reverse translation, is the translation of previously translated content back into its original (source) language. Back translation is carried out by a native speaker of the target language who has not been involved in the project’s execution until this point and has no reference materials or original text available. 

This translation quality assurance method is commonly requested by the most demanding clients with the purpose of verifying the level of accuracy of the original translation. Back translations may differ stylistically, and some words may be replaced by their synonyms, but the final text should definitively show the meaning of the original document as closely as possible. Please note that for the best results, the translator handling this work must be aware that the job concerns a back translation. This means that the translator will stick to the source text a little more closely than usual. It is especially important that small errors or weak sentences in the text are not improved or adapted which is something that the translator would normally do.

A back translation can show the quality of translated text as an equivalent to its original meaning. The process could also be called translation validation

Due to its high cost, back translation is not among the most frequently requested services for the purchaser of normal translation services, but it is highly recommended for high risk document translations such as life science documents, clinical trials, market research, herbal recipes, and others. 

However, if highly qualified and experienced linguists are used for the original translation, the second party editing, and the third party review, the back translation phase can be skipped.

  • A back translation is the validation of a previously translated document against the source text. The main objective is to find any shortcomings in the original translation, and highlight all errors that are discovered.
  • The cost of a back translation is similar to that of an original translation that is carried out from scratch. Therefore, this service should be used when 100% precision is required.
  • A back translation is primarily requested by the medical, science, and market research industries.
  • Ask your Language Service Providers (LSP) if their quality assurance process includes back translation for important documents.

NB: The back translation of MT is also called a round-trip translation. More information on frequently used terms in the translation industry can be found here: Glossary of industry terms.

RIX Translation Service Agency
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