Quality, Accuracy and Back Translations

by | Aug 30, 2017

Think about an over-the-counter product you might choose to soothe a wintertime cough. The instructions for the use of that cough suppressant need to be accurate and straightforward, with absolutely no ambiguities or misunderstandings for anyone, in any language. The consumer who reads those instructions in English — as well as the consumer reading it in every other language that product is sold in — needs to understand those instructions in the very same way. And not just the instructions, but everything that surrounds that product — descriptions, labels, packaging, advertising, etc., needs to be exact in every target language. Close, with high value content, is just not close enough.


Language Service Providers – or enterprises with their own Globalization Program Office – ensuring this level of quality and accuracy in the translated content is achieved through a process called “back translations“.

With back translations, the translation cycle begins the same way you would expect, with a source language that needs to be translated into a target language. But once the target language is complete, that’s when the back translation work begins, an additional process added to the workflow.

Using an out-of-scope translator — someone who has not been involved in any aspect of the original project — the target language is now re-translated back to the source language. Using a translator who is external to the project means there are no preconceptions of the content, which means the back translator will be able to deliver an unbiased translation.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely the back translation will match the original source content word-for-word, and that’s why it’s important to perform reconciliation. The reconciliation is a report that compares the versions, highlighting all the differences in the target language that may be wrong, out of context, or could lead to misunderstandings. Armed with this report, the project manager, who needs to be proficient in the source language, is able to go back to the original translator to discuss the language that’s been used so the target content can be modified. Once modified, the process can be repeated again and again and again until all the content is reconciled.

Wordbee offers our clients back translation capabilities as a workflow option and, in so doing, we are able to offer our customers a solution that follows the recommendations of the World Health Organization on the process of translation and adaptation of instruments.  Our reconciliation reporting is robust, identifying who the different stakeholders are, tracking the changes that have been made, their comments and the reasons why they made the change. Also, the step of reconciliation is an integral part of the workflow we offer: the project Manager can compare the original and the “back-translated” version directly in the Wordbee Translator CAT editor in order to detect easily any errors or linguistic confusions.


There are many industries where translations that are close are just not good enough, like the dozens of industries that sit under the Life Sciences umbrella. Back translations and the resulting reconciliations give proof to the customer of the quality of the translation, that the content has been accurately translated, without mistakes, omissions or ambiguities.

And, as consumers, it means we will be able to understand the instructions, no matter which language we’re reading them in.


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Reaching global markets means you need to get your translation management together. 

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