How to use back translation to check the quality of translations

Published on 10/11/2020

Among the techniques for checking the quality of a translation, back translation is one of the most effective.

It can be said that it gives good results and avoids falling into false friends, among other translation errors. Back translation should be carried out when we do not know the target language and want to know the content of the translation. It is therefore useful in any professional negotiation involving large bets. For example, when we sign an exclusive contract or make a purchase contract without knowing the language of the translation.

Here are a few points to explain the importance and advantages of back translation. This method is used by major translation agencies such as AbroadLink Translations on demand by their clients.

1. What is back translation?

What is back translation

To understand what back translation is, you can use an automatic translator on the Internet. Translate your text into another language (German, for example) and then translate the result back into English.

And look where, in many cases, serious inconsistencies or errors are detected in the final result. This simply means that the quality of the translation is poor or questionable.

This can only be solved by modifying the words and replacing them with synonyms, in order to refine the translation and obtain a correct result. Back translation has led to great works, such as that of Sergiy Tyupa, with his great article published in New Voices in Translation Studies 7: A Theoretical Framework for Back-Translation as a Quality Assessment Tool.

2. Back translation for optimal quality control

Back translation for optimal quality control

However, we are all aware of the limitations of machine translations on the Internet. Therefore, to obtain a quality translation, it is necessary to use human translators who are native speakers of the target language, as professional translation agencies do.

However, when dealing with sensitive documents and it is imperative to ensure absolute fidelity to the original text, it is strongly recommended that a back translation is also performed, involving two different translators, with the second translator translating the text back, as literally as possible, into the original language.

In a back translation, style has a residual value and is the content where the main focus is. The aim is to know that there are no errors of translation in relation to the meaning.

This second translation, done by the other translator, will show the words or passages that must be modified so that the message is correctly transmitted through the translation.

3. Fields in which quality back translation is required

Fields in which quality back translation is required

Back translations may be necessary in the case of company documents, contracts, instructions for use, in the field of medicine, etc. Any document or text that we consider appropriate may be subject to a back translation.

In general, where there is a significant legal and economic impact, serious consideration should be given to back translation.

These translations are a guarantee that the final translation reaches the required level of accuracy when we do not know the target language. The quality of corporate translations with an international dimension should not be neglected and should always be entrusted to a professional and experienced translation company.

In this case, you will have an even greater guarantee of quality if the agency in question has ISO 9001 quality certification and/or other ISO or European certification specific to the translation.

4. Other advantages of back translation for translation quality

Other advantages of back translation for translation quality

If you are still not convinced of the relevance of a back translation, we could still talk to you about two very important arguments.

First of all, a back translation allows you to check the quality of a translation when your customer does not master the target language (or even, in case of doubt, to check the quality of translations by a translation agency or freelance translators).

Back translation also makes it possible to correct certain aspects of documents in the original language in order to improve their clarity and relevance. As we can see, there are no contraindications regarding the use of back translation as a tool for quality control of a translation.

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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