Off topic: Don't you just hate back translations?
Thread poster: Yongmei Liu

Yongmei Liu  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:20
English to Chinese
+ ...
Jul 10, 2003

Especially when the agency doesn't tell you beforehand that your translation will be subjected to the scrutiny and humiliation of an overzealous back translator?

I do. But the process does force me to be more precise in translation.

Thanks for listening.


Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:20
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
They can serve one useful purpose... Jul 10, 2003

That being to focus back upon the original goal of the translation, which can vary by client and/or agency needs.

Some translations need to be literal, others need to be localized, others need to capture a certain linguistic style, etc. (a few rare ones even need to be done incredibly quickly at the expense of quality!). All translations being highly subjective to begin with, we find that "corrections" can be helpful in achieving a perfect final product within the context of the translation's original main goal(s).

Just our two cents...


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:20
German to English
+ ...
Scrutiny yes, back translations no Jul 10, 2003

A competent translator should be quite capable of producing a report for a client upon the quality or fitness for purpose of an initial translation.

Back translations are a totally unsuitable instrument for this purpose. No self-respecting translator should agree to produce one.


[Edited at 2003-07-10 13:51]


murat Karahan
Local time: 06:20
Member (2003)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Back translations... never... Jul 10, 2003

Sometimes clients ask us to back translate the turkish translation of a movie for reviewing. My reply is always the same, the back translation is only the original (ideally of course) and grab in your pocket and find a proofreader in my language. The last time I was asked to do such a thing was with the movie 8 Mile. They insisted and I just copy-pasted the original lines as back translation, yet I went nuts when I saw a report by a "proofreader" who had made a literal back translation of my translation and listed all normal shifts in translation as mistranslations.... So, back translation, never... It doesn't work that way, why not use a proofreader instead of asking for a back translation.

[Edited at 2003-07-10 13:52]


Yongmei Liu  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:20
English to Chinese
+ ...
That was funny: Jul 10, 2003

murat karahan wrote:

The last time I was asked to do such a thing was with the movie 8 Mile. They insisted and I just copy-pasted the original lines as back translation ...

[Edited at 2003-07-10 13:52]


I know in some cases people do their back translations "based on" the original texts!

Occasions where my translations have been back-translated: TV commercials, drug company IVRS scripts, and a healthcare education pamphlet.


Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:20
English to Latvian
+ ...
Untranslation, detranslation... Jul 13, 2003

Why don't they require physicians to "unheal" patients, bakers to "unbake" bread, drivers to "undrive" their vehicles -- in order to prove the quality of their work?

Backtranslation is a shaky practice. If backtranslation is carried out, it should/may only focus on how precisely and clearly the facts are presented to the reader. Those who order backtranslations usually have no idea about the target language. The grammar and style aspect of the original translation can only be commented upon, not "back-translated".

The backtranslator should be a highly analytical person, plus proficient in the two languages/cultures. Actually, s/he is a facilitator who must be sensitive to the roles, needs and expectations of everyone involved: the client, the translator, the readership.


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