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Concept of a back translation

Concept of a back translation
Concept of a back translation

Concept Of A Back Translation

People might be familiar with how the translation industry functions, or at least have an idea of how translation works. It is a common service nowadays and a simple Google search will return thousands of results. While not necessary a new industry, people have only recently been acquainted with this niche little industry.

While translation is already a popular and well-understood concept, not a lot of people knows about a what ‘back translation’ is. Some might easily dismiss this as an output that has been returned back to the agency due to poor quality, or for some other reasons. That could not be farther from the truth.

A back translation can be defined as a set of procedure employed by a team of translations in order to interpret a project which was previously translated to a different language and back to its original form. It is one of the most complicated form of translation. In order to keep the integrity of the final output, most agencies use a different team of translators that were not previously attached to the project. It is also required that this new team that will handle the back translation has no prior knowledge of the project’s context.

There are cases that a particular project was checked for quality and accuracy, and they would check out fine. Most of the time, agencies will only release a project if its hits 100 percent accuracy. However, when the same output is subjected to back translation, a different team will provide a different translation context. This result is suspect to mistranslations. As such, an agency will promptly issue an order for back translations in order to make sure that quality and accuracy are maintained.

Back translation has huge application for industry that are considered high value content. Among these are pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, and the medical device industry. Notice that most of which have something to do with the medical industry. It is because a single mistranslation in this industry might spell life or death to the end user.

When to use back translation?

When to use back translation?

Back translation is usually employed in order to maintain quality compliance. It is considered as a very helpful practice that maintains an agency’s adherence to quality and accuracy of their output. Some professional translators even demand to have their projects back translated. They find it useful in making sure that only they maintain the quality and accuracy of their outputs.

Some might wonder why back translation is useful. Well, despite strict quality measures employed by some agencies, there are rare cases wherein inconsistencies can fly under the radar. Despite spending hours poring over the project as part of the quality check, time and time again there will be that one single mistranslation that might spell trouble for the company. Despite the amount of time resources allotted in performing back translation, agencies and professionals still want to use this practice. Not only for the sake of keeping quality high, but also for personal improvement.

Other uses of back translation.

Aside from keep the quality of outputs high, back translation has a lot of application as well. In order to boost their market, some agencies will opt to have their company certified or at least receive accreditation. Third-party companies usually do the certification and part of the process usually involve back translations of previously finished projects.

What happens is the accreditation will take a bunch of previously finished projects and perform back translation to it. If the two translations will match perfectly, chances are the company will receive high accreditation score. For companies that will not pass the minimum quality and accuracy requirements, they usually receive a poor grade and will be subjected to another certification check months later.

One of the main purposes of back translation is to provide extra quality checks, especially in different translations. The main point for the utilization of this process is to look for translation that a company can trust.

back translation

Sometimes even clients, especially large corporations, perform the back translation as a way to gauge a potential translation partner. What these companies usually do is pick several agencies and have them translate the same set of documents and have their outputs back translated by a notable agency. Whichever agency will get the highest score will have the highest chance to be picked for the job.

It also works as a benchmark for new translators looking for a job. If an aspiring translator applies for a job in an agency, chances are they will be given a set of projects to translate in order to gauge the quality and accuracy of their output. The applicant’s output will then be subjected to a back translation from the company’s pool of highly skilled translators. If the applicant’s output reaches or passes the required level of quality, there is a big chance that they will get the job.


Translation is an industry that requires a keen eye to accuracy and quality. Even a single mistranslated word could spell disaster to a both the company and its client. Because of this, clients usually pick only those that are highly regarded and those that have built a reputation as only providing the best outputs.

Agencies usually adopt a lot of quality measures in order to maintain the quality and accuracy of their outputs. However, if there is one unifying procedure that gauges quality, it is back translation. It is a tried and tested procedure that has proven effective over the year, and probably in the years to come as well.

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