Back Translation – What Is It and Why Your Business Needs It

Back translation

As businesses that deal with sensitive content can attest to, having access to extra quality assurance for translations is of paramount importance. Once the translation, proofreading, and editing are complete, it might seem like the translation process has reached its last step. However, there is an additional phase that businesses can select if they want to take the quality control process even further. That step is called back translation, and it is a practice that is continuing to gain popularity because of its unique way of ensuring top-notch translations.

What Is Back Translation?

Overall, back translation is the process of taking a previously translated document and translating it back into its source, or original, language. As an example, if an English source document is translated into Japanese, back translation involves translating the Japanese document back to English.

The purpose of back translation is to verify that the translation about to be used is completely accurate. Ultimately, translators can use this method to compare the original translation to the back translation to make certain that the two documents completely match, which helps to validate the translation’s quality. Once the process is complete, any differences between the two documents can be reconciled.

How Is Back Translation Done?

There are two types of back translation that can be conducted, depending on the needs of the business:

  • Single back translation. In this type of back translation, the client provides the source content and the translated file, then the translator completes the process of transforming the translated document back into its source language. Next, the back translation is carefully compared to the original translation, and a report is generated that shows any discrepancies between the two documents. As part of this report, the reviewer will include comments about the accuracy of the text. The process is concluded with the original translated document being modified to address the discrepancies, so that the source content is more precisely reflected.
  • Double back translation. This process starts with the client submitting only the source file, which the translator uses to translate into the target language. Following the forward translation, the translator will conduct the back translation, then complete the report that compares the forward and back translations. From there, the process continues like the single back translation.

In both of these processes, the client will receive a statement that certifies that the translator only used the forward translation to conduct the back translation, rather than also using the source text. This certification helps to demonstrate the accuracy of the forward translation as compared to the back translation.

Who Uses Back Translation?

While back translation is a great choice for anyone who wants extra assurance that their translation project is 100% accurate, it is typically used in situations when accuracy is absolutely critical, with one small mistake having dire consequences. Some of the industries that use back translation include marketing, advertising, pharmaceutical, and medical research to help maintain legal and regulatory requirements, as well as to ensure quality and consistency in their documents.

Examples of content that would greatly benefit from back translation include:

  • Pharmaceutical documents, such as medication inserts
  • Clinical trial information, including questionnaires and consent forms
  • Medical device instructions
  • Medical forms, such as consent for treatment
  • Scientific materials, including scientific formulas
  • Financial reports and audits
  • Legal documents, such as contracts and lawsuits

Why Your Business Needs Back Translation?

Regardless of the industry, back translation gives any translation project an extra layer of assurance that the document states exactly what is intended. It helps to identify and correct any mistakes, ambiguities, or confusion that can occur during translation.

Additionally, it gives the business a clear picture of the quality of the translation, especially since the report comparing the original translation to the back translation is generated. As a result, the business can feel confident that the translation will be thoroughly understandable in the target language.

Because single back and double back translations are complex, it is critical to select a language services provider (LSP) that has extensive experience in the processes. By working with an LSP that has a clear process in place, small and large translation projects will be achieved with precision.


Having access to extra quality assurance in translation is of paramount importance, especially when sensitive documents are being translated. Back translation gives an additional layer of quality control, ensuring that translations are 100% precise.

Share your thoughts