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  Paula Gordon, doing business as Plan B   Wilmington, Delaware USA    www.dbaPlanB.com   paula@dbaPlanB.com

Back Translation and "Information-Only" Translation

"Information-only" and "for the file" translations are translations that will not be published, but will be used to brief staff or project participants, to place on file in case of an audit, or, at the most basic level, to find out what a document says.

The main requirements of information-only translations are accuracy and completeness; they usually do not require fancy formatting. These no-frill translations do not need to be stylistically impeccable and do not need to be polished for publication. Sometimes the translator is asked to provide context or other notes along with the translation.

Please tell me if your translation is for information only. It makes a difference in pricing and timing!

Back translation is a method used to validate translations from English into another language. In my case, it consists of translating the forward-translated Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, or Serbian text back into English. The translator should not refer to the original English document and is sometimes requested to provide notes about the forward translation, such as whether the meaning is clear, whether the register is appropriate for the intended audience, and whether terms are used consistently.

"You translated each item exactly . . . without adding your own interpretation of the intended meaning, which is what some back-translators like to do. Thank you so much for your prompt delivery and help with these projects! It is always a pleasure to work with you." Company project manager, August 2007. (Back translation of an illness-specific health questionnaire.)

Some translators don't like doing back translation, but I find it a fascinating linguistic exercise. But to get it right, I need to know that the job is a back translation.

Why you should tell me that the assignment is a back translation:

  • The specifications and goals of back translation differ from those of translation, so you will not get a deliverable that serves your purpose if you do not mention that the job is a back translation.

  • The work process of back translation is different from that of forward translation, and these services are priced differently.

  • Back translations are typically more literal, and phrasing can sound awkward in English; my forward translations are polished, publication-quality texts.

  • If I do any Internet research, I am very likely to find the English text of your back translation online. That would raise a red flag for me and I would stop working and contact you for clarification.

To sum up: If you don't tell me that the job is a back translation, we will lose time and energy on the false start.

More About Translation Services
check out dbaPlanB Translation Subjects
check out dbaPlanB Translation For Publication
check out dbaPlanB Back Translation (you are here)
check out dbaPlanB Mixed Services

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