Back-translation

The Language Factory we are fortunate enough to have native speakers of a number of languages in-house.

Many international marketers and market research agencies do not have the same resources. Knowing that the translations they have commissioned are accurate and fit-for-purpose can become a challenge. There are a few options available however to clarify the veracity of their text.

Proofreading is one and, in our opinion, the best method as it allows issues to be identified and rectified in a single-step process. Back-translation is also often considered as a method for reviewing translation quality.

 

How back-translation works

  • Original language A
  • Translate into language B
  • Translate language B back into language A
  • Compare original language A with “new” language A and identify discrepancies

Any apparent discrepancies are reviewed in the translated document (language B) to establish whether the translation is incorrect and amend it if necessary. 

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Beneficial or bewildering

For someone who doesn’t speak their target language, being able to compare a new source language document with the original may seem like the ideal solution. But what if the problem isn’t in the translation but in the back-translation?

For example. Translating the statement “I like eating cheese” into French may yield two options: “j’aime beaucoup le fromage” and “j’aime manger du fromage.” Both convey the meaning of the original English but, back-translated word-for-word may result in “I really like cheese”, versus “I like eating some cheese”, or even “I like eating of the cheese”.

Obviously neither says exactly what the English says and the overall impact is the sense that the French must not convey the correct meaning when in fact, it does.

 

What do we recommend? 

Back-translation has benefits but may also misattribute language mistakes. At the Language Factory we specialise in providing an alternative method of pre-translation consultation, followed by post-translation proofreading.   

For example, clients provide us with a list of adjectives describing a new cereal: explanations of how they differentiate crunchy from crispy or sugary from sweet. These definitions are factored into the translation at the start. Clearing up any doubts at the beginning will always be quicker and more efficient than checking and possibly putting things right later on.

Once the translation is complete, for extra reassurance, you can also have it proofread by a second qualified translator who’ll flag any issues and fix them at the same time.

You may also like our other market research translation services

Survey translation

Online QC

Open-end coding

Focus group precis

Omnibus translation

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