17 Jan Why are back translations used in medicine?
You might not know what ‘back translation’ is and how it is used in medicine, but at some point you will undoubtedly have worked with a document that has undergone a back translation, for example in areas such as clinical trials, pharma documents and research study protocols. In short, a back translation allows you to compare the translation with the original text to check for quality and accuracy, helping you to assess whether the meaning is the same in both the source and target texts. Back translations are used in many sectors but their main use is in medicine, typically being used by medical device companies and also pharmaceutical companies. If the content is of high value, it is often necessary to have a back translation.
Rebuilding the original text
A back translation consists of taking a translated document and translating it back into the original language to check the accuracy of the translation. It also means that errors in meaning and omissions can be detected. The idea behind this process is to ensure that the ideas in the original document are being translated as faithfully as possible.
While ideas and concepts must be faithfully translated, the exact words used in the original and the back translation do not normally match. In a back translation, the exact words used in the original may be replaced by synonyms and so rarely coincide fully with those in the original text. The idea behind back translation is to make sure that the translated text is as close in meaning as possible to the original text.
The need for a professional translator
When you require a back translation, you’ll need to hire a professional translator. The job must always be carried out by a professional whose native language is the target language. Another requirement (something common in good practice) is that the back translator has never seen the very source file, to avoid any potential contact with the original file. Many medical companies and international organisations choose to go through this process before publishing essays or texts. These organisations prefer to perform this step before the proofreading is carried out to ensure that the message being conveyed is the right one.
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