Why back-translation is not worth it

Sometimes, customers think that back-translation will help them check a translation. This is an expensive illusion.

Back-translation is where a text that has been translated from one language into another is then translated back into the first language. The idea is that the first translation is only good to the degree that the back-translation results in more or less the same text as the original.

The fallacy in this thinking is that it assumes that the back-translation is perfect; otherwise, the check won't work. But if the first translation needs checking, so too does the back-translation. So, instead of having just one translation to check, you now have two...

Double translation

A similar paradox awaits those who try another strategy: they get two independent translators to make the same translation and then compare them. Again, there is twice as much to check, and someone now has to do that.

The solution

The idea of using two independent translators is clearly right. The question is how. Our solution is for them to work separately and consecutively on making one translation. The second translator suggests improvements he/she thinks would help, and the first translator decides which of these suggestions to accept or reject.

That sums up the Independent Peer Review service for translators. Instead of expensive stalemate, we now have progress in the direction of better translation.


United Kingdom
Phone: 07909853441