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Why Back-Translation Can't be Used to Measure Quality

We at Translators USA have an obsession with quality when it comes to, well, just about everything. Seeking to meet each and every client's needs perfectly, we are always prepared to go an extra mile to deliver the highest quality translation. But we also understand that many clients, especially those who haven't worked with us before have concerns about quality. After all, how can they tell if they don't speak the language? And it's no secret that all translation service providers promise to deliver the highest quality even though many don't meet even the basic quality standards. There are many ways for clients to measure quality of translation but back-translation isn't the best method.

What Is Back-Translation and Why Is It Done?

 

Back-translation refers to conversion of translated text back into the original language. It is typically done by a translator who wasn't involved in translation of the original text and has no access to the source text which, as believed by some clients, can be used to measure quality of translation. If it was done properly, then back-translation will be the same as the original text. Or won't it?

The Controversy of Back-Translation

At a first glance, back-translation doesn't seem a bad idea to test accuracy of translation. However, there are two major issues with this method of measuring quality. Firstly, language is not an exact science. It is possible to say one and the same thing in many different ways. As a result, back-translation will never sound exactly the same. In fact, a higher degree of similarity between back-translated and original text doesn't necessarily indicate higher quality. On the contrary, it can mean that it is a word-by-word translation without any consideration of the objectives, target audience or context.

The second thing which in our opinion makes the use of back-translation to measure quality problematic is that an error can be introduced during back-translation as well. And since clients often don't understand the language from or to the original text was translated, there is no way for them to determine who made the error.

Our Advice

As mentioned earlier, there are several ways for you as a client to ensure that you are getting the highest quality translation, with the most important one being choosing a trustworthy translation service provider with a good reputation for quality, experience and clear quality control policy. We recommend you to ask questions and not to give a go ahead before receiving a satisfactory answer to all your questions. But don't fall on promises alone. You should be provided with a clear and easy to understand answer to all your questions. Also, pay attention to quality of customer service because it often indicates what to expect from other services.

The last but not the least important, be sure to provide the chosen translator(s) with all the necessary information because the more they know about the goal of translation, its context, target audience/culture, etc., the higher quality translation they will produce.

You can always turn to Translators USA if you have any questions about translation, no matter if you need one or not. We will be happy to answer all your questions 7/7.

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018
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