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Back Translations

Back Translations

Back-translation is one of the most common quality assurance checks in research processes and is most used in health to allow researchers to check that their translations are correct and fit for purpose. However, despite how frequently back-translation is used, it shouldn’t be considered a fool-proof method of checking a translation.

First of all, the skill of the linguists involved should be taken into account. A skilled linguist with a deep knowledge of the subject matter at hand could make an average quality translation look wonderful in the back-translation – we should always remember that the two are different texts.

Back-translations can also fall into the trap of assuming that languages have one-to-one word equivalents or concepts between them. As a result, translations that are intended for back-translation can sometimes end up being literal and reading strangely in the target language, because the translation is intended to be easy to back-translate.

For back-translations, the key is to understand that the text may not come back exactly the same as your original document. The meaning should be the same but the specific words used to convey it will undoubtedly have changed in the process.

Another quality-assurance check that can help is proofreading by a mother-tongue linguist with expert knowledge and industry experience in the subject matter, like all of our translators at MTT. Many of our translators have worked in their respective fields at home and abroad, so they know how documents should read in both English and their mother tongue.

Whether you need a back-translation or proofreading as part of your quality assurance, MTT can help match your project to a suitable and qualified linguist. Contact our friendly team on +44 1562 748 778 or send us an email to We’d be happy to help!

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