What is Back Translation & Its Importance for Sensitive Documents

A specialized translation services agency offers a very wide range of specialized services, including back translation. As the world becomes more and more connected by business and trade relationships, there is a growing need for translating various documents from one language into another. Professional agencies specialize in as many as 300 language pairs, ensuring that people from all over the world can bridge communication barriers.

But what is the meaning of back translation? And why is it a special service? In this article, we give you a clear definition of back translation and detailed explanations concerning the fields of activity and types of documents that need it. 

What Is Back Translation?

A specialist can verify the accuracy of a translation via back translation

Back translation helps confirm the accuracy of meaning for a document.

The back translation technique involves three main steps:

  • Getting a document translated from the source to the target language
  • Giving the translation to a new translator to retranslate into the source language
  • Comparing the back translation with the original document

In essence, backward translation verifies that a translation maintains the full meaning of the original document. Whenever serious differences are found, the second translator will reconcile the original document with the initial translation. 

Where to Look for Back Translation Examples

Back translation examples are not usually publicly available. This specialized technique is required for sensitive documents and in highly regulated fields of activity (more on this topic later in this article).

However, for example’s sake, you can think of popular brand mottos and taglines and how they read in various languages. Here, localization is very important – making sure that the translated version is culturally appropriate and maintains its original meaning. 

When a back and forth translation is performed, you may not get the exact form of the tagline – this is rarely the case. However, the meaning stays the same. Let us consider the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs”. No one actually imagines cats and dogs falling down from the sky, but very heavy rain. In Italian, this phrase is “piove a secchiate”, whose back translation is “it is raining with buckets”. Now, this does not look at all like the original phrase, but we understand the meaning – buckets of water falling from the sky, i.e. very heavy rain. 

What Documents Require Back Translation

We have hinted so far that back translation is a special technique required for very important documents. But which kind of documents might these be? First of all, let us explain what fields of activity require back translation. These are highly regulated domains in all countries:

  • Healthcare
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Legal
  • Finance
  • Manufacturing 
  • Food production

Documents which require the back translation technique range from instructions of use for various devices and machinery to medical forms, clinical research papers, and patient information leaflets for drugs.

The translation of these documents must be extremely accurate because mistranslation may cause harm or even claim someone’s life. For this reason, companies operating in highly sensitive fields are required by law to send documents for a backward translation and attach the Reconciliation Report. This report is a certification from the back translator stating that the translation is an accurate transposition of the meaning of the original document.

The Challenges of the Back Translation Technique

Now that you know what is back translation, the question is: how can you find a translator capable of handling this task? The fact is that back translation requires extremely good knowledge of the target language at nearly native level.

At the same time, since this translation technique is needed for specific fields of activity, the translator must know the respective field very well, including:

  • Specialized terms
  • Acronyms
  • Industry standards

Therefore, companies usually hire a professional translation agency. These agencies know how to recruit translators who specialize in back translation technique so that they deliver exceptional quality for each project they undertake.

A translator working on a back translation technique

Back translations require a lot of attention and specialist knowledge.

Issues the Back Translation Meaning Does Not Cover

When you consider hiring a specialized translator, it is important to know not only the  meaning of back translation but also what it does not represent. Here are three key aspects that you will not be able to verify with back translation:

  • The quality of phrasingback translation will confirm that the meaning of the translation is faithful to the original document. However, it will not provide a quality assessment in terms of choice of words and phrases.
  • Typos and grammatical errors – the back translator will not proofread the translation. They will simply retranslate it into the original language.
  • Ambiguities – some words and phrases can be interpreted in different ways. Back translation will not identify these terms and replace them with more appropriate ones.

Hire a Professional Agency Specializing in Back Translation Technique

Pronto Translations has over 20 years of experience in the translation field. We can provide translation for over 300 language pairs, as well as reliable back translation services for documents in highly regulated fields of activity.

We are based in New York, NY, so visit us to discuss your project or call us at 646-984-4073. Our services are available worldwide online.