back translation - what is it?
Thread poster: Anette Herbert

Anette Herbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:58
English to Swedish
+ ...
Jul 23, 2003

I have just received an e-mail from my agency about a job I recently did for one of their clients. The mail is forwarded from the client to me - and they are asking for a back translation. It sounds like bad news to me, but I don't understand what they are saying.
It reads as follows:
"Can you ask the translator for the Am 3.0 consent in Swedish a certificate
in which he mentions the name of the IC and the exact version which was
Also a back translation has to be done."

Does anyone understand this, I would be grateful for an explanation and what is a back translation?
I'm a bit worried.




Transflux (X)
Local time: 09:58
French to English
+ ...
translate back Jul 23, 2003

As far as I understand, a back translation (although I've neve been asked to do one) means translating a text which has already been translated back into the original source language. But if you already have the source there would be no point. It is also a way of testing how accurate the translation is.
Good luck


Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:58
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
it does make sense - in certain cases Jul 23, 2003

One of my regular clients specializes in translating advertising copy and marketing collateral.
They almost invariable ask a translation AND a back-translation. The point? In marketing slogans it is hard to render the original pun or associative ideas. The adapted version may differ slightly from the original, and the client wants to know what the adapted slogan exactly means.

In other cases, an agency may ask for a back-translation of a translated document - but in this case the back-translation is performed by a different person. The goal here is to make sure the intended message "went through" in the translation and no major piece of information was lost.

[Edited at 2003-07-24 10:41]


J. Leo (X)
Local time: 09:58
Dutch to English
+ ...
It increases the scientific validity of tests too. Jul 24, 2003

It’s a method used to verify the accuracy and to capture the nuances of connotations in translated text. I’ve done a few for scientific texts, which when dealing with medical, psychological tests, questionnaires, survey etc., need to be as close to the source connotations as possible.
This accuracy enhances the similarity of test validity that might need to be done when the translated test is used as a research instrument in the target language. If an instrument is translated accurately (an intelligence test, for instance) then the researchers in the target language can collect data from their participants with the knowledge that each question is as similar to the original which had already be and the differences found can then be looked at in terms of cultural differences, among other reasons.
My source-target languages are Dutch-English. I would never translate into Dutch even with a back translation. It must always be treated as a ‘normal’ translation. I then offer my logic of choices and this is all discussed with the client. When I see the original, after I’ve done my back translation, the differences are discussed and the original translation is adjusted. Some may ask another translator to do yet another back translation as a second opinion.

The word stomach in a source text might be translated into the target language as: belly, tummy, abdomen, gut, etc, all of which may be appropriate depending on the purpose or population for which the instrument is used. ‘Tummy’ might be more appropriate for a child’s questionnaire or information pamphlet, whereas it may sound condescending for a piece needed for adults. The original translator may not 'feel' the 'weight' of the synonyms.
The back translation tells whether the initial translation into the target language captures the essence of a word. This is extremely necessary when the source language is as ‘synonym-happy’ as English is.

I have never heard of this method being used for anything other than scientific texts for this reason I’ve mentioned.


Anette Herbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:58
English to Swedish
+ ...
Back translation - no problem Jul 24, 2003

Thank you all for your helpful and informative answers - it turned out to be a storm in glass of water as we say. What they actually wanted - was a signed statement that it was an authentic translation, but what a cryptic way of asking for it! As you already mentioned Tayfun, it is a patient consent form for a new drug and I now understand the need for a back translation. But the agency will sort that out, I thought I had to do it!




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back translation - what is it?

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