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Meaning of Back-translation
Thread poster: Saida Afef Gardabbou

Saida Afef Gardabbou  Identity Verified
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Local time: 11:23
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English to Arabic
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Nov 24, 2011

What is meant by back-translation, please? any samples? Thanks.

 

Steve Booth  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:23
English to Arabic
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it is Nov 24, 2011

a method of checking the accuracy of a translation.

An item is translated for arguments sake from Arabic to English then a second translator translates the English translation back into Arabic and the two compared.


 

Laura Bissio CT  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 05:23
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
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translation of the traslation Nov 24, 2011

BT is the translation of the traslation into the original language. Here is an explanation I received from an agency:

The BT must always be a true representation of your transcreation and nothing less.
Often clients do not speak the language and therefore rely heavily on accurate BT to understand exactly how their brand is being presented in different markets. On the other hand please remember that the BT have to make sense, too. If the BT doesn’t sound good, a client might
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BT is the translation of the traslation into the original language. Here is an explanation I received from an agency:

The BT must always be a true representation of your transcreation and nothing less.
Often clients do not speak the language and therefore rely heavily on accurate BT to understand exactly how their brand is being presented in different markets. On the other hand please remember that the BT have to make sense, too. If the BT doesn’t sound good, a client might think that the local language line has its shortcomings. So, it’s a compromise between accuracy and reasonable text in the original language.


Hope it helps.
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Christine Andersen
 

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:23
Spanish to English
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They have their place. Nov 24, 2011

I regularly do back-translations for one agency. It is really important to get clear instructions from the client as to exactly what they want from you. In my case, for example, the client wants me to stick to an almost literal translation and isn't worried about whether or not it sounds natural. The texts are invariably prescribing instructions and patient information leaflets so they are more concerned that the information conveyed is exactly what is in the original text.

Differen
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I regularly do back-translations for one agency. It is really important to get clear instructions from the client as to exactly what they want from you. In my case, for example, the client wants me to stick to an almost literal translation and isn't worried about whether or not it sounds natural. The texts are invariably prescribing instructions and patient information leaflets so they are more concerned that the information conveyed is exactly what is in the original text.

Different clients/subject matter will require different criteria, I suppose.
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Christine Andersen
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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SITE LOCALIZER
What back-translation is Nov 24, 2011

Afef wrote:
What is meant by back-translation, please?


A back-translation is a very literal, almost word-for-word translation back into the original language. The back-translator typically does not see the original source text. If the back-translator wants to point out errors, he can do so, but it is generally not seen as part of his job.

What happens with the back-translation depends on the client. Some clients ask the translator (either of them) to then proofread the back-translation against the original source text to check for potential errors, and then to update the forward-translation and back-translation. Other clients send the back-translation directly to the end-client or field expert to decide which deviations are not within reasonable limits, and then the translator is asked to update his translation based on the comments.

Some clients have no sensitivity for minor differences in language, and will ask the translators endlessly to update their translations until the back-translation is almost exactly the same as the original source text, but that is silly. If you know that you have such a client, try not to split hairs during back-translation, so that the back-translation is likely to be not too different from the original source text.

A back-translation is only one method of checking a translation. It has flaws. For example, if the original translation is very literal, then the back-translation will create the false impression that the translation is very good.

It is also difficult sometimes to determine when a literal translation is too literal or too direct. It is generally assumed that the back-translation should be grammatically correct even if the word order may follow the target language instead of usual source language patterns. If you are back-translating in a specific field where a word has a specific meaning as well as a literal (different) meaning, back-translate its subject specific meaning.

Here's an example of a forward translation and back-translation:

English (source text):
The USSR's launch of Sputnik spurred the U.S. to create the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in February 1958 to regain a technological lead. DARPA created the Information Processing Technology Office to further the research of the Semi Automatic Ground Environment program, which had networked country-wide radar systems together for the first time.

Afrikaans (forward-translation):
Na die lansering van die USSR se Spoetnik, het die Amerikaanse regering in 'n poging om weer sy tegnologiese voorsprong te herwin, in Februarie 1958 die Verdedigingagentskap vir Gevorderde Navorsingsprojekte (DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) tot stand gebring. DARPA het op sy beurt die Kantoor vir Inligtingsverwerkingstegnologie (IPTO, Information Processing Technology Office) gevestig om navorsing te bevorder oor die program vir halfoutomatiese grondwerksaamhede, wat radarstelsels van oor die hele land vir die eerste keer in 'n netwerk laat skakel het.

English (back-translation):
After the launching of the USSR's Sputnik, the American government in an attempt to regain his technological advantage, in February 1958 founded the Defence Agency for Advanced Research Projects ([untranslated:]DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency). DARPA in turn founded the Office for Information Processing Technology ([untranslated:]IPTO, Information Processing Technology Office) to promote research on the programmme for half automatic ground activities, which caused radar systems from across the whole country to be linked for the first time.

Based on the back-translation, what do you think might have been mistranslated?


Ebrahim mohammed
 

Edward Herrera  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Member (2006)
Russian to English
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Checking the concepts Nov 25, 2011

I regularly do back-translations into English from the foreign language for a private company - not a translation agency. This company asks that the person doing the back translation certify that he or she is not familiar with the original English language source text and also has not previously worked on the particular project in question. Instructions from the placement coordinator ask for a complete translation and state the purpose is to verify that the concepts in the original document are ... See more
I regularly do back-translations into English from the foreign language for a private company - not a translation agency. This company asks that the person doing the back translation certify that he or she is not familiar with the original English language source text and also has not previously worked on the particular project in question. Instructions from the placement coordinator ask for a complete translation and state the purpose is to verify that the concepts in the original document are reflected in the translation to the foreign language. Some of these document files are meant to be recorded by a human so a natural sounding translation is required.

As the back-translator I never see the original source documents. The requesting company couldn't be sure of the accuracy of the translation if the back-translator had the original source documents on hand for reference. That would defeat the purpose of the whole enterprise. I would guess that the source documents are probably also in a different dialect of English than my own. But that does not seem to be a concern. Mainly, they just need to be sure all the ideas are there. Its one step in the quality control process.
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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 10:23
English to German
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In memoriam
Backtranslation Nov 25, 2011

I have had jobs called "backtranslation" that were just translations into the local language of the Agency (English from Japan translated into German for an Advertising Agency located in Switzerland).

 

Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:23
German to English
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Samuel wrote ... Nov 26, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:

Afef wrote:
What is meant by back-translation, please?


...back-translation is only one method of checking a translation. It has flaws. For example, if the original translation is very literal, then the back-translation will create the false impression that the translation is very good.


After silently disagreeing with so many (most?) of your previous posts, I'll agree openly with this one.
c


Josephine Cassar
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:23
Member (2007)
English
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Are they done for marketing texts? Nov 26, 2011

I've never had anything to do with back-translations, but perhaps that's because I work in marketing. I can imagine they might be very useful in technical specifications, etc. to ensure that the correct message has been passed. The last thing my clients want is a word-for-word translation, but probably that is the only translation that would give good results in a back-translation. Does anyone have any experience of them in marketing?

I did once do one for an estate agent who proudl
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I've never had anything to do with back-translations, but perhaps that's because I work in marketing. I can imagine they might be very useful in technical specifications, etc. to ensure that the correct message has been passed. The last thing my clients want is a word-for-word translation, but probably that is the only translation that would give good results in a back-translation. Does anyone have any experience of them in marketing?

I did once do one for an estate agent who proudly announced that their most sought-after property was "in the bottom of a lime pit" - but they didn't answer my offer to improve the text so I guess they were quite happy with it!

Sheila
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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:23
Swedish to English
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Too much experience Nov 26, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Are they done for marketing texts?

I've never had anything to do with back-translations, but perhaps that's because I work in marketing ... Does anyone have any experience of them in marketing?




Might depend on the end client's business area and/or adherence to relevant regulations, but the only back translations I do are for material that might in anyway be considered marketing related. Print ads, banner ads, direct and 3rd party emails, webpages - basically anything that promotes the products - all have to be compliance approved.

My company (I work in-house for an end client), however, does not have a Swedish speaking compliance officer. Hence I have to back translate any material that can, even vaguely, be considered promotional.


 

LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:23
Portuguese to English
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Article: Back Translation Revisited Nov 26, 2011

http://www.interel.net/translate/Downloads/Back%20Translation%20ATA%20Article.pdf

 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
English to German
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In memoriam
Back-translations will become more important in the future Nov 27, 2011

Because clients who don't speak the target language will need to verify that their valuable texts have not been shoved through some machine translation software by some fraudulent "translators". Lawsuits are expensive and damaging.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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SITE LOCALIZER
Back-translation for marketing Nov 27, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I've never had anything to do with back-translations, but perhaps that's because I work in marketing.


I suspect a back-translation-like procedure for marketing may be useful, but it will have to be something other than a mere literal translation. For example, it may be useful for the client to have a second opinion about how a pun or metaphor or cultural reference was translated. Such a "back-translation" be more of a commentary, then.

When I'm asked to translate advertising material without the benefit of the graphic (it is amazing how many ad agencies think that word-and-picture play can be translated without seeing the picture), I use back-translation of my own translations to show the client how the text might related to an image.


 

Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:23
Spanish to English
A very suspect method Nov 27, 2011

I have never been told that I am doing a back translation but I have often suspected that I am when I am translating something from Spanish to English that does sound like natural Spanish and miraculously turns out to very easy to get into good English. Some of them have even been liberally sprinkled with words and phrases in English. So, as Samuel says, they can be very misleading.

Viktoriia Horiachko
 

inge van dri (X)
Local time: 10:23
German to Dutch
+ ...
Yes Nov 27, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Does anyone have any experience of them in marketing?
Sheila


At a small scale. But in most cases reviewing of marketing translations, slogans etc. is done by the client's department in the country where the texts have to be published, without the intervention of the translation office/agency and the translators (this would not be efficient and even counterproductive, especially in cases where the translators do not have the right to have a contact with the end client). Please recall that these texts have to be adapted to the country and to legal requirements, and may not lead to false publicity.


 
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Meaning of Back-translation

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