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Is Back Translation Right for You?


3 min read

Written by


Argos Multilingual

Published on

09 Apr 2020

The search for quality, error-free translations has led companies to a wide variety of potential solutions, but is back translation the best one for your content?

There’s a lot of confusion over what exactly we mean by the term itself, but at its most basic back translation means taking a document that’s been translated into another language and translating it back into the original language and comparing the two. Let’s say that you have a brochure in English that needs to be translated into German. You give it to a translator to translate into German. You then give that translated brochure to a second translator and ask them to translate it back into English. This is the back translation.

Why back translate?

For clinical trials, back translation is often required by sponsors to make sure that the translation conveys the same information as the source document. At Argos Multilingual, we occasionally apply automated back translation as a QA tool internally, particularly for new clients, linguists, or content. However, we don’t return the raw back translation to the client, as it’s our role to review the back translation against the original document and make necessary adjustments.

Why not back translate?

There’s no getting around it – there’s a lot that back translation won’t do. Translations typically need to be more than just accurate – they also need to be read naturally in the target language, and back translation often doesn’t accurately measure what translators call “quality of expression.” What’s more, back translation often misses grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors, and it also can’t be relied on to catch ambiguities (words or phrases that are correctly translated but could be interpreted in more than one way) in the translation.

The right tool for the job

At Argos Multilingual, we instill a Quality at Source approach that helps companies reduce the number of additional steps (such as back translation). Our emphasis is on finding the potential errors in the source text and giving our translations and revisors the tools to help them identify errors as early in the process as possible.

Click here to learn more about how we manage quality control and see some of the other tools that are available to us.

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