Back translator?
Thread poster: IevaB

IevaB
Ireland
Local time: 16:52
Lithuanian to English
Aug 3, 2010

Has anyone ever heard of the term 'back translator'? According to my sources it's a translator who translates already translated document back to a source language for example: RUS-ENG -ENG-RUS. If this is correct, then maybe someone can explain me why would a client need this (without an obvious reason to know that the project simply wasn't translated using for example Google translate or in general it was translated into a correct language)?And if this is a 'new trend', then what about 'old & good workflow': client-translator-proofreader-client? And where does it leave translator and stylistic preferences?

 

David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:52
Japanese to English
It leaves other translation methods where they are Aug 3, 2010

IevaB said
Has anyone ever heard of the term 'back translator'?


I wonder if people do back translation full time?
I haven't met any, but I have done back translation.

Please permit me to answer your questions from an
oblique angle.

I work in Japan.

A few years ago I was persuaded to teach English
a couple of nights a week at bicycle factory about
five minutes by bicycle from where I lived.

One of the students checked incoming parts shipments.
He had a number of machines for this. He would randomly
remove parts and set them in the machines.
Most the testing seemed to involve repeatedly bashing
or stressing the part until it cracked or broke.

This was quality assurance.

When a customer buys a product they want to be sure of its quality.

Translation is also a product and canny buyers
assure the the quality of what they receive.

Trusting the vendor (how many agencies do full
QA of all jobs that pass through?) is one way,
and backtranslation is another.

I have done back translation a number of times, most
notably of direct mail for a client selling part works
(biweekly 'magazines' that you bind into a volumes).

I translated three versions of the DM copy.
Whoever wrote the original copy had a clear vision
of what kind of phraseology sells and wanted the Japanese
to align with that vision.

It was quite instructive to see the subtle changes in the
successive versions.

Texts are written for diverse purposes and with various readers
in mind, and there are a range of approaches to translation.

Buyers also vary. Some think of translation as simple code
conversion: viewing translation as a commodity, they think that
one translation is as good as the next. Others want their copy
to stand alongside text generated by professional copywriters
of the target language and are prepared to pay for craft.
Clients who care about quality carry out some kind of
quality assurance. Back translation is one form of this.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 22:52
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Explanations to the back translation reviewer Aug 3, 2010

David Eunice wrote:
I wonder if people do back translation full time?
I haven't met any, but I have done back translation.
I work in Japan.

This was quality assurance.
When a customer buys a product they want to be sure of its quality.
Translation is also a product and canny buyers
assure the the quality of what they receive.
Trusting the vendor (how many agencies do full
QA of all jobs that pass through?) is one way,
and backtranslation is another.

I have done back translation a number of times, most
notably of direct mail for a client selling part works
(biweekly 'magazines' that you bind into a volumes).

I translated three versions of the DM copy.
Whoever wrote the original copy had a clear vision
of what kind of phraseology sells and wanted the Japanese
to align with that vision.

I did many medical (clinical trials) back translation frequently when the target of back translation is not my native language. The problem arises since I reflected all my-native-language translations accurately in back translation words. I was checked again by a reviewer who does not understand my native language. The reviewer always gave me weird questions in MS Word comment text boxes. I spent most part of the jobs to explain the reviewer about the idiom, grammar, convention etc. of my native language.

This is an impressive job experience
Best regards,

Soonthon L.


 

InfoMarex
Ireland
Local time: 16:52
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Back translation Aug 3, 2010

Back translation rarely occurs in the world of commercial reality. However, it may arise under either of two headings:

1.
The client is not sure of the quality of the translation and suspects that something is wrong. The professional back translator has to be fluent in both languages.

2.
As mentioned in another reply, it may be part of a quality control process, e.g. two paragraphs taken from a long text are back translated, again by a professional translator, to see how close they are to the original. It occurs more in technical specifications than in "Are you coming to the next board meeting?" texts.

The professional translator who does such back translation must also be aware than another translator's services are on the line when such is done.
Kind regards,

Michael J McCann
InfoMarex


 

Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:52
English to Russian
+ ...
It´s normal Aug 3, 2010

IevaB wrote:
… And if this is a 'new trend', then what about 'old & good workflow': client-translator-proofreader-client? And where does it leave translator and stylistic preferences?


I am sorry to say that this is not a 'new trend' at all.

It's funny but some translators are capable to translate 'five' as 'six', and no stylistic preference can be an excuse for this.

One of notorious pitfalls in English is - to substitute A for B

Some clients just want to be 100% confident about the quality of the translation they have paid for. Hence they order back translations.

[Edited at 2010-08-03 10:11 GMT]


 

IevaB
Ireland
Local time: 16:52
Lithuanian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Translator+back translator Aug 3, 2010

Thank you for all your comments. I am just wondering if the project is set up using back translator, does that mean that translator is responsible for additional editing after 1st back translation is done and comments from back translator received?
Last night I found a great article on: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Back%20translation%20as%20a%20means%20of%20giving%20translators%20a%20voice.-a0218450365
It explains the whole process of back translations methodology. It appears to me that in many cases it is quite a long process until the final document is approved. So do you think a translator has to raise his/her rates when taking up a project which may last longer than ever anticipated?


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Doubtful Validity Aug 3, 2010

To me, back translations are of doubtful validity. One factor is that an overly literal translation can easily take you back to the original, yet be poorly understood in the target language. How does one account for that? Another factor is that some words/phrases can have many valid possibilities for translation, and it is impossible to determine which may have been intended originally; or then again, is that really important to know?

When I am translating something originally written in a language, I am trying to penetrate the mentality behind it. When I am translating something originally written in another language but translated, that process does not work. Thus it becomes nothing more than an exercise in futility. Am I to guess what the original writer intended, or what the other translator might have understood?

As a matter of professional policy, I refuse to work on anything where another translator's work might be involved, including proofing, editing, back translation, incorporating it into my own work or whatever.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 22:52
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Extra translation service Aug 4, 2010

Henry Hinds wrote:
To me, back translations are of doubtful validity. One factor is that an overly literal translation can easily take you back to the original, yet be poorly understood in the target language. How does one account for that? Another factor is that some words/phrases can have many valid possibilities for translation, and it is impossible to determine which may have been intended originally; or then again, is that really important to know?
………………………
As a matter of professional policy, I refuse to work on anything where another translator's work might be involved, including proofing, editing, back translation, incorporating it into my own work or whatever.

I wonder we can extend our language study through front and back translations or not?

Acting as a bridge between different languages, translators need to both understand and guess possibility of meaning and contexts out of a piece of work. We are much influenced by translations, both in good and bad quality, of other people. IMHO, we need to compensate for incompleteness of the front translation as well as the idea included in the document.
In many of my medical back translations, I was forced to add certain words to complete the source document [not front translation!]. This requires special knowledge of the subject e.g. what is legally demanded in clinical trial in certain countries. I feel it challenging and enjoy to do both back translation and amend the front translation at the same time (by commenting about front translation accuracy as well as source text quality.)

Regards,
Soonthon L.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:52
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
a back translator is just a translator Aug 4, 2010

Sometimes I do back translation from Chinese into English. Although some of my clients didn't tell me it was a back-translation job until after I had finished it, I really can tell it was. For quality assurance, your clients should not tell you that the job is a back-translation job in nature in advance.

So a back translator is not a new title. Your clients should just use “translator" other than "back translator".


 

Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:52
German to English
+ ...
Back translation is standard practice in clinical trials Aug 4, 2010

As Henry said, back translations are of doubtful validity in most cases. However, when a text must be understood in exactly the same way by speakers of many different languages, as in multinational clinical trials, or in the case of patient outcome instruments, back translation can be a valuable exercise for ensuring that everything is correct. It does require slightly different skills, however, and an intimate knowledge of correct terminology in both the source and target languages. It also has to be as literal as possible without violating grammar and terminology rules.

On the other hand, a good translator will make different decisions based on the intended audience and purpose of a translation anyway. A back translation is a type of translation with a very specific purpose and audience.


 

AlcVitRes
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:52
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Backtranslating Aug 4, 2010

It's not so narrow niche.. in my practice, it's used for films (subtitling) and medicine/philosophy/religious stuff, when big (or 1:1) degree of accuracy is needed.
Part of such tasks has More than a dozen steps until final product release.

In some cases, it's used for checking translation, when it's done from intermediary (not original) language, also backtranslating is oftenly done by other person than first translator. 1:1 translating is not taught at universities, though.

For most translations just 4-5 steps from this tech is sufficient.


 

Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 10:52
Spanish to English
I agree with Henry Aug 4, 2010

I have never knowingly done a back translation but have translated documents that read like translations from English. These are the ones that have an English sentence structure and sometimes included English words that are not used in Spanish, or erroneous literal translations of English terms. Of course, my translation is not going to reflect any of that and the result is that the back translation cannot in any way tell the client whether the original translation was good or bad.

 

Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 21:22
English to Hindi
+ ...
Back translation is required to understand; whether the heart is OK! Aug 5, 2010

When there is a debate about quality of the translation; or there is a difference of opinion between translator and reviewer, back translation is best way for PM to evaluate translation.

It is a wrong impression that you should get exact source from back translation. The motto of back translation is to confirm, whether the heart of source is safe!

If the back translation falls, in line with the source, quality of original translation is best... and so on.

Regards,

Sudarshan


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 22:52
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Back translation is standard practice in clinical trials Aug 5, 2010

Dawn Montague wrote:
As Henry said, back translations are of doubtful validity in most cases. However, when a text must be understood in exactly the same way by speakers of many different languages, as in multinational clinical trials, or in the case of patient outcome instruments, back translation can be a valuable exercise for ensuring that everything is correct. It does require slightly different skills, however, and an intimate knowledge of correct terminology in both the source and target languages. It also has to be as literal as possible without violating grammar and terminology rules.
On the other hand, a good translator will make different decisions based on the intended audience and purpose of a translation anyway. A back translation is a type of translation with a very specific purpose and audience.

I totally agree with Dawn. I also add that the back translation is also reviewed by the person who does not understand the source language. Isn't it strange? I can assure you that only a few medical trial companies are hiring for such tedious translation processes. After around 20 jobs, I declined their back translation since I was exaustive to reply to many annoying questions e.g. "will this 'distant' be 'far' or not?" I need to select words to explain about synonym and antonym.

Best regards,
Soonthon L.


 


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