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Need more info on back-translations
Thread poster: Terese Whitty

Terese Whitty
United States
Local time: 23:48
Member (2004)
English to Swedish
Jul 17, 2004

Hi!
How do back-translations work? I have an offer where they want me to translate from English to Swedish and then do a back-translation to English. Any experience in back-translation welcome!


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
seems strange that they have asked you to do both Jul 18, 2004

Terese Whitty wrote:

Hi!
How do back-translations work? I have an offer where they want me to translate from English to Swedish and then do a back-translation to English. Any experience in back-translation welcome!



Hi Terese

All I know about backstranslating is that it is a way to check how/that info has been transferred correctly. Sopmetimes it's used where the 'checker' doesn't know the target language, so it often happens with unusual language combinations.

What seems strange is that they have asked you do do both, as obviously there is no sense in the same person doing the translation then the back-translation (as far as I know you could just reverse the direction of your translation memory).

I am curious to know more, as recently I did a translation into PT from EN, and the client referred to it as a back-translation, but I wasn't sure whether I was acting as a check or whether it was a straightforward translation job.


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
+ ...
Here is something about the topic that may be of interest to you Jul 18, 2004

I wrote this piece for the benefit of my clients:

http://www.arabicfreelance.com/back.html

I hope you find it useful.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:48
German to English
+ ...
Unprofessional Jul 18, 2004

Backtranslation for the purpose of checking the correctness of a translation is based upon a layman's understanding of what translation is all about. It's illogical, unprofessional, and a waste of time and money. Don't do it. If a customer wants assurance of the quality of a translation, he should commission a report by a second translator.

Marc


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Robert Zawadzki  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:48
English to Polish
+ ...
Creative translation Jul 18, 2004

I do back translations of my own translations sometimes, when I am asked to provide a 'creative' translation (say, of an ad). The well known Polish translator said once, that translation is like a woman: beautiful or else faithful. When I am asked to provide a beautiful one, back translation makes sense.

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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:48
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Back translation Jul 18, 2004

I agree with Ailish that it seems strange that they would want you to do the translation and also the back translation.

I have a client (medical subject matter) who routinely asks me to back-translate the work of another translator to insure the quality of their medical translations.

As far as I know they do it at random intervals and not for all translations. Another translator then also back-translates my work. The language combination here is Dutch into English.

But, I have never had someone ask me to do a back translation of my own translation.

I thank Arabic Freelancers for the eloquent explanation on back translations. I hope that they don't mind that I printed it out to keep it for my files.

Lucinda


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Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:48
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
I do not see any real benefits on back-translations Jul 18, 2004

MarcPrior wrote:

It's illogical, unprofessional, and a waste of time and money.
Marc


I agree with Marc. Furthermore, when (some) translators know that their translation will be back-translated, they tend to translate word for word, way too literally, which makes their translation sound like a bad translation (at least this has been my experience when doing back translation.)

Have a great Sunday everyone,
Monika

[Edited at 2004-07-18 14:50]


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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:48
German to Italian
+ ...
My 2 cents Jul 18, 2004

What if the back translation is worse than the first translation? The first translator is not necessarily to blame if the original text and the back-translated text do not match.
IMHO it would be better to have the first translation checked by an experienced, qualified proofreader AND by an expert with a technical background (eg a doctor in case of a medical translation, a lawyer for legal translation etc.)


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:48
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The purpose of a back-translation Jul 19, 2004

Terese Whitty wrote:
How do back-translations work?


Back-translation is one method whereby the client (or the translator) can check for omissions or additions to the translation. The back-translation must be very literal but must still be idiomatic in the source text.

Hence if one translator translated the sentence "The patient suffers from pain in the abdomen" to "Die pasiënt ly aan maagpyn" and the back-translator translated it "The patient is suffering from tummy ache", the client has the opportunity to evaluate whether in his text the term "pain in the abdomen" means the same as "tummy ache". If not, he can request a re-translation with a useful note to the translator.

** What seems strange is that they have asked you do do both, as obviously there is no sense in the same person doing the translation then the back-translation (as far as I know you could just reverse the direction of your translation memory). **

In simple sentences, the back-translation will look exactly like the original source, but remember that a back-translation is an very, very literal translation.

** If a customer wants assurance of the quality of a translation, he should commission a report by a second translator. **

Alas, even a second translator might make mistakes. I have seen it happen (in medical texts). Unless there is an inhouse translator whose word is final, the client needs some way to check for omissions and additions.



[Edited at 2004-07-19 07:48]


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:48
Agree with Rzawadsk Jul 22, 2004

rzawadzk wrote:

I do back translations of my own translations sometimes, when I am asked to provide a 'creative' translation (say, of an ad). The well known Polish translator said once, that translation is like a woman: beautiful or else faithful. When I am asked to provide a beautiful one, back translation makes sense.


I have been asked to provide back translations when doing "creative" translations of ad copy (advertising). In this case, it is done to allow the client to get a "feel" of what is being said in the target language. In this context, I DO find back translations useful.

However, I believe that back translations done by a second translator in order to verify the ability/accuracy of the first tranlator are not of much use, and provide a recipe for trouble, just as Marc and Lorenzo mentioned.

[Edited at 2004-07-23 15:59]


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