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Poll: Have you ever been asked to do back translation?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 11:58
SITE STAFF
Mar 10, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever been asked to do back translation?".

This poll was originally submitted by Yetta J Bogarde. View the poll results »



 

Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:58
Member (2006)
German to English
Back translation?? Mar 10, 2015

What is that?

 

Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:58
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Yes Mar 10, 2015

And I kindly decline. I only translate German into Swedish.
I’ve also been asked to translate into Swiss German, Danish (But they are practically the same language!) and, believe it or not, English.


 

Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:58
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Translate back into original language Mar 10, 2015

At least that is how I understand it.
If the text requires a freer translation (marketing, slogans) the (end)client would like to know what the translation actually means.

And writing that I realise that I have indeed delivered back translations of my own translations together with the translation, but I don't back translate other translator's work.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Mar 10, 2015

I suppose there must be people who specialise in that sort of thing. But I don't recall ever having been asked to do it.

 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 19:58
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Mar 10, 2015

In over 30 years as a full-time professional translator I have never been asked to do back translation. Anyway, I translate exclusively into my native language (European Portuguese)...

 

Tania Samuelsson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:58
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
common step in the quality control process in med/pharma Mar 10, 2015

I have worked on many backtranslations in the med/pharma field, where it is a common method of quality control. The overall process might be something like this: one or two forward translations (+ reconciliation if required), prooofreading, then a backtranslation and proofreading, then comparative review (comparing source and BT) and lastly adjustments to the draft forward translation.
Backtranslations are performed by linguists in the same language pair as regular translations, so I still translate from my usual source language to my usual target language when backtranslating. I find backtranslation quite interesting as there is a different priority order compared to a forward translation (the old fluency vs fidelity dilemma). Comparative review is also an interesting process as it can be performed without reference to the target text or knowledge of the target language.

For those unfamiliar with BT:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation#Back-translation

http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/25047-what_is_a_backtranslation.html


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:58
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, 3 times do far Mar 10, 2015

Marketing is not the only field back translations are used.

All three projects I provided back translations for were based on the same incentive: defining terminology guidelines for the client.
All three projects involved White Papers and all three clients faced the same issue. Certain terms are understood differently in Germany and Britain, because they developed in a different way and describe a different range of activities/characteristics. So there is no exact match for the established terminology in each country. There is an overlap, but this can lead to a lot of confusion.
One also involved telephone conference discussions with several translators and industry experts.

I don't mind these as long as I know in advance, as subsequent discussion requires additional time investment.


 

Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:58
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Yes Mar 10, 2015

As long as the client is aware I am back translating out of my primary and into my secondary language, I have no problem with providing back translations. (Or sometimes, as mentioned, back translation can be from your source language into your target language.) I have done this quite a few times part of the proofreading/translation process. Any significant discrepancies with the source text tend to come back to the back translator to check if the issue was indeed with the forward translation, or if this might have been a mistranslation in the back translation.

I have also participated as a linguist in a few harmonisation meetings - linguists translating into various target languages all gathered together to compare the different translations of the same source text and make sure the end product is the same throughout all the different languages. I really enjoyed those meetings and am sorry I moved away so I can no longer participate.

[Edited at 2015-03-10 08:47 GMT]


 

Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:58
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
It really shouldn't be an issue... Mar 10, 2015

...to a translator because the document will to all intents and purposes be just another document to be translated into the translator's mother tongue.

Here's a short story for you all

Years back (1987) when Stanley Kubrick brought out Full Metal Jacket, it eventually made its way over here months later to Japan for distribution and was translated by a famous subtitle translator over here -- won't mention her name -- into Japanese. Now, Mr. Kubrick, being a savvy and generally clever fellow, got it translated back into the original English again to see if the intended message had got across. He rejected it outright because all the accompanying expletives in the army talk had been 'edited out' in the translation and transformed into cleaner and less terse and brutal language. He asked for a direct translation which he got and I found very entertaining because Japanese does not have those kinds of words, some close equivalents but not the 'full frontal' icon_biggrin.gif type of language.


 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 21:58
Turkish to English
+ ...
Yes Mar 10, 2015

Yes, I do what appear to be back translations from time to time, although I am not usually told that this is what they are, nor would I expect to be.

 

Tania Samuelsson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:58
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
In a backtranslation, the source text is in fact a target text Mar 10, 2015

Tim Drayton wrote:

Yes, I do what appear to be back translations from time to time, although I am not usually told that this is what they are, nor would I expect to be.

I think you need to be told it is a backtranslation so you do not "fix" source text problems (since your "source text" is actually a "target text"). The purpose of the BT is to discover problems in the target text which is being backtranslated.


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:58
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Requires different approach Mar 10, 2015

Tania Samuelsson wrote:

Tim Drayton wrote:

Yes, I do what appear to be back translations from time to time, although I am not usually told that this is what they are, nor would I expect to be.

I think you need to be told it is a backtranslation so you do not "fix" source text problems (since your "source text" is actually a "target text"). The purpose of the BT is to discover problems in the target text which is being backtranslated.


The entire translation process is different, the result needs to be as literal as the natural flow and use of language allow. There is no room for synonyms or creativity. In my specific cases this meant approaching White Papers as if they were contracts, which one would most certainly not do in regular circumstances.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Yes, and it's utterly daft Mar 10, 2015

Tania Samuelsson wrote:

I think you need to be told it is a backtranslation so you do not "fix" source text problems (since your "source text" is actually a "target text"). The purpose of the BT is to discover problems in the target text which is being backtranslated.


Yep, which makes it very different to normal translation. It's a very strange process. It's a bit like normal checking but in the wrong language combination and combined with Chinese whispers, and I don't think it works very well at all. But then it's easy money so...

I used to do loads of back-translations of pharmaceutical texts that had been translated into the Scandi languages. It's standard procedure in the drug industry.

While it's fine for rooting out howling errors, it's very difficult to convey the inevitable "weirdnesses" in the translation. Generally I found it worryingly easy to see the original English behind the translation, so it was very difficult not to translate it back to exactly what the original English was and give the impression that the translation was OK rather than capture the actual crapness of the Scandi translation.

I cannot see how back-translation can ever be as good as having a couple of native translators check the original translation in the normal manner. It's a flawed process.

[Edited at 2015-03-10 09:09 GMT]


 

Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:58
Italian to English
Yes Mar 10, 2015

I do these quite regularly for patient information sheets and other clinical trial documents. I've also done a few for some psychological tests. It seems to be standard practice in certain industries. I only do back translations from IT-EN, not the other way around.

 
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