Lingohub is committed to making localization easier and providing the best practices to support our users. Today, we are discussing one of the popular quality control translation approaches, back translation, and how and when Lingohubbers can use it.

What is a back translation?

In other words, it is a reverse (re-translation) when content is translated back to the source language. Then, the original text is compared with the back translation results to see how the meaning of the content was changed. Such an action helps to:

  • Control the cultural adaptation;
  • Evaluate the accuracy of the translation;
  • Guarantee the correct meaning of the translated content.

How to use the back translation?

Reverse translation can be compared to the children's game "Chinese Whispers," in which players hear only snippets of information and interpret them into similar words or phrases.

Using this method requires at least two translators to avoid conflicts of interest. Translator #1 does a translation, and translator #2 should translate the content to the original language with high precision. Thus, the customer can evaluate how accurately the translated text shares the needed thought.

What is back translation

When to use the back translation?

Reverse translation is expensive (compared with the classic way) as it requires more linguists and additional edits during the process. Thus, its usage pays for itself best when text accuracy is the top priority and crucial. For instance, we can highlight the following industries where back translation implementation is completely reasonable:

  • Pharmaceutical and healthcare. Medical localization is challenging, and accurate translation of its related industries, no understatement, is vital. For instance, the correctness of the pharmaceutical instructions guarantees patients' well-being and can also significantly impact the company's reputation.
  • Marketing and advertising. Slogans and calls to action translation (or, best to say, transcreation) are creative processes during which the initial idea can be changed. Often, in such cases, the direct translation does not resonate with the cultural nuances and preferences of the new region. Thus, back translation is one of the best tools to ensure the transcreated content fits local rules and carries the right message.
  • Legal and Regulatory: The regulatory materials do not allow any ambiguity of interpretation and require precise translation to ensure compliance and avoid misunderstandings. That's why back translation can frequently be used to verify accuracy and ensure the correctness of meanings.

Other sensitive industries, like finance, education, engineering, etc., can also be added to the list above.

As mentioned earlier, reverse translation is expensive, so it is rarely used for a large volume of content. More often, this approach applies to small and critical pieces of the projects.

Moreover, you can use reverse translating in a QA area when you need:

  • Test the quality of new translators' work. Suppose you, as a manager, want to evaluate the quality of a new linguist. In that case, you can provide testing content to a reliable translator and compare the original and back-translated versions.
  • Check the translation of character-limited strings. There are often differences in word length between languages; the typical cases are English and German. This fact can cause issues when trying to fit text into a button or block of a certain width. To solve this problem, a translator may provide a shortened option but may not convey the intended meaning. To ensure accuracy, the localization team can use back translation to review all text and discuss possible options to find the most appropriate translation.

Examples of back translation

In our blog, we have already reviewed localization fails, such as "Fired Duck," Pepsi's, and Parker's misses. It is clear now that the reverse translation could have helped these companies avoid mistakes from scratch. Let's look at a better example of a famous slogan — McDonald's and its back-translation.

LanguageSloganBack translation
PortugueseAmo Muito Tudo IssoI love it very much
FrenchC'est ça que j'MThe phrase can be translated as
"That's what I love." The thing is that
the capitalized "M" makes the "j'M" a shortening of "j'aime" - "love."
UkrainianЯ це люблюI love this
Chinese我就喜歡I just like this
SpanishMe encantaI like it

As you can see, a simple slogan was translated similarly to the original content; in some countries, like France, McDonald's played with the spelling, which made the company even closer to the local customer.

Best practices for back translation

Correctly using reverse translation can be a powerful tool. Follow these simple rules for a 100% success rate.

  • Work with native experts. In creative or cultural-specific content, sometimes it can be hard to understand all the subtleties of a phrase's meaning. You can ask to add additional comments explaining phrases or idioms.
  • Work with different translators. As mentioned above, such a step will minimize the risk of conflict of interest.
  • Provide a context. The translator who does a back translation should understand the task and have enough information and context. Also, you can highlight which part of the project is the most important for you (terms, creativity, etc.)
  • Compare the versions by yourself or with an independent expert.
  • Use only human-based translation for comparison. Although translation systems have become powerful tools today, they can't compete with human translation and provide a correct back translation for analysis.

How can Lingohub support back translation?

With Lingohub, you can create unlimited projects, making it convenient to do a back translation. Let's take a look at one of the ways of how this can work:

  1. You or your translators can add specific labels or set chosen statuses for the important text segments during translation. Note: Lingohub provides an unlimited number of labels.

  2. Then, you can easily export the selected text segments as an XLIFF file (the platform-independent standard) and share this document with the independent agency/translator or create a new project in Lingohub and upload it.

  3. If you want to proceed with in-house translators, you can create a new project, upload the generated XLIFF, and provide project-based access for your translators, which means you can manage who from the linguistic team sees one or the other project.

    3.a. Lingohub provides translation ordering services as an option, meaning that if you need an independent view, you can hire translation services inside the application.

Why is using Lingohub for back translation the perfect option?

  • Context providing. All the projects inside a workspace have single sources of trust — a style guide and term base. You shouldn't create a new one for a back translation project.
  • Segment descriptions and discussions. During reverse translation, the team can leave notes inside the segment description or open a new conversation if they have any questions or suggestions.
  • Version history. You can manage the previous versions of your content and create backups to restore earlier translations if something changes.

To sum up

Back translation is a great tool that allows managers to evaluate the translation and improve the quality of the content comprehensively. As with any narrowly focused instrument, it has rules and best practices, which we highlighted in this article. One of the challenges for back translating is the organic organizing of this process in the entire localization, and here Lingohub can help you with it. If you have questions about building a reverse translation for your company or want more information about Lingohub tools, do not hesitate to book a short demo call with our team - we are always happy to support you!

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