Off topic: Problems of back translation
Thread poster: chopra_2002

chopra_2002  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 19:54
Member (2008)
English to Hindi
+ ...
May 14, 2004

Some clients are very much quality conscious and they are keen to ascertain whether the translated text conveys the exact meaning as per its original counterpart. They want to know whether the translation has been done accurately or it communicates some different meaning which is not intended. In their opinion, the only way to confirm it, is getting the text translated back into the source language because in this way they can compare the translated text with the original one and hence determine the discrepancies and departures.

This appears to be an appropriate and practical method of knowing the errors in the translated text but the success of a back translation is dependant upon the quality and accuracy of the translated text to a great extent as any mistake on the part of translator would definitely reflect in the work of back translator as he is just following the translated text. This sometimes creates problems because the client is usually ignorant of the language in which the text was translated but he enjoys good command over the source language. Thus he cannot detect errors in the translated text but he simply finds faults in the work of back translator who is just following someone and is almost blind in respect of the actual meaning to be conveyed. In this way, the back translator sometimes suffers for none of his fault and it becomes very difficult for him to convince the client that he is almost helpless in such a situation. Is it fair at all?!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:54
English to Tamil
+ ...
Back translation has only limited value May 14, 2004

If the back translation is faithful to the original, the first translation is correct. So far so good. If that is not the case, there are two alternatives i.e. the first translation is incorrect or the back translator has not done his work properly. If the client remembers this point, there will be less problems.
In logic, for a hypothetical syllogism to be true, there are 2 rules. Either affirm the antecedent or deny the consequent. In both these cases, the conclusion is valid. If one takes poison, one will die. One has taken poison, so one dies. One is not dead, so one has not taken poison.
If on the other hand, one has not taken poison, one may even then be dead because of an accident. Similarly if one is dead, it need not be on account of taking poison but due to some other reasons.
Something similar is applicable to the question of back translation.
Hope I have not lulled anyone to sleep.
Regards,
N.Raghavan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 11:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree. May 14, 2004

Back translations are of dubious value. First of all, it is almost impossible for the back-translator to guess the style of the original writer. Second, let's not forget that original documents could have been poorly written in the first place, and the translator fixed the problem.

At best, it will give the client an idea as to whether the original meaning was transferred to the translated document, nothing else.

Regards,
Ricardo


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 14:24
cut some slack? May 14, 2004

One cannot help but wonder whether it would be more cost-efficent for the client to get people to write into their native languages at the source (in-house), still communicating the same message, and hopefully eliminating the need for back translation.

Otherwise you're just playing Chinese Whispers, the information is 3rd hand by the time the back-translator is finished with the document.

Orla


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jörgen Slet  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 16:24
English to Estonian
+ ...
One more problem May 14, 2004

Ricardo Martinez de la Torre wrote:

Back translations are of dubious value. First of all, it is almost impossible for the back-translator to guess the style of the original writer. Second, let's not forget that original documents could have been poorly written in the first place, and the translator fixed the problem.


And third, the original or its derivative may be available to the translator doing the back translation, meaning the client will mostly just get the original back.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 16:24
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
That explains the low rates May 15, 2004

...payd by many agencies. They have to pay two translations to make sure the job is done properly
It would be better of course to get a second opinion about the first translation from an independent expert, but for five cents or even less per word no expert will read.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

chopra_2002  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 19:54
Member (2008)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I am not pinpointing any special case but am talking about May 15, 2004

in a general sense about the problems of back translation. I am not much concerned about rates of back translation but sometimes, the "findings" of clients owing to the reasons mentioned hereinabove, cause some sort of job dissatisfaction!




[quote]Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:

"Translation of Advertisment texts needs back translations,
however in other fields I do not hear so much back translation cases.
(Copywriting rates are very high and it may cover your back translation as well)"


Direct link Reply with quote
 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:24
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
native speaker intuition May 15, 2004

The biggest problem with using back translation in order to judge accuracy is that as a native speaker of the target language, while I may be able to deduce/guess the meaning of an incorrectly or literally translated source text, a monolingual native speaker of the source language may not understand the text at all. Thus, it is possible for the back translation to "match" the original document, but still be incomprehensible/inaccurate.

[Edited at 2004-05-15 18:31]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

nothing
Local time: 14:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
Back translations are even worse in advertisement May 17, 2004

[quote]Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:

Translation of Advertisment texts needs back translations,
however in other fields I do not hear so much back translation cases.
(Copywriting rates are very high and it may cover your back translation as well)

The main reason for an advert is to sell and what appeals to people in one country may be very different from what would make people in another country buy the product. So, advertisement translation is the loosest of all translations; sometimes it's not a translation at all, but a complete new slogan/sentence, etc. How can anybody use back translation to check it? That would really be a case of Chinese Whispers


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Problems of back translation

Advanced search






Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search