Back Translation

Back Translation is the process of translating a document that has already been translated into a foreign language back to the original language – preferably by an independent translator. This is a way to verify the accuracy of a translation. For example, a document in Spanish is translated into English. Then a separate translator would translate the English document back into Spanish. The two Spanish documents would be compared to make sure the English text was a correct translation of the original.

The practice of back translation can be a difficult one as the nuances of translation are far-ranging. “A literal word in one language may have no equivalent in another language,” explains Wendy Pease, Executive Director of Rapport International LLC. She adds, “People in the language business know that translation is an art and not a science.” No translation can be expected to convey perfectly the “meaning” of what the writer meant to convey in their own language. This is why the demand for skilled and trained translators is so high.

The most common areas for back translations are science and medicine, whether they are medical forms, informed consent forms, research study protocols, etc. Translation of medical documents requires very high accuracy. Translation errors can change the meaning of important content. In these cases, back translation can be a very effective tool and a good way to ensure quality.

After the back-translation, the original and back-translated documents are compared and points of divergence are noted. The translation is then corrected to more accurately reflect the intent of the wording in the original language.

There are alternatives to the use of back-translation which include translation with editing. This is where one linguist translates the document and an independent editor reviews the document to ensure that the meaning and quality have not been compromised. There is also multiple-forward translation. This is when two or more translators both translate the document from the original language to the new language and the two versions are then compared.

Translation can be a complex process. In order to ensure quality, one needs to work with a trained and highly reputable language translation company. Rapport International is a translation and interpretation company based in metrowest Boston, MA. Rapport can provide quality translation done by experienced translators in over 100 languages

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