Back Translation Process for Medical Documents
Back Translation Definition
A “back-translation” is a translation of a translated text back into the language of the original text, made without reference to the original text. Comparison of a back-translation with the original text is sometimes used as a check on the accuracy of the original translation, much as the accuracy of a mathematical operation is sometimes checked by reversing the operation.
In a normal translation process, a translator translates a document, after which an editor then reviews the translation and makes corrections if needed. A more robust translation method includes back translation, whereby a second translator translates the translation back to the original language. An editor then compares the original document with the back translation and verifies that there are no discrepancies between the two documents. Once the back translation matches the original document, we can be sure that the translation is completely accurate.
Back Translation Used in Clinical Trial Documents
Translation of medical documents for clinical trials requires very high accuracy. Translation errors can change the meaning of important content in the clinical trial documents. Some IRBs and ethics committees require the sponsor to file foreign language documents together with a back translation.
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GTS has proven experience in delivering certified back translation of clinical protocols, informed consent forms and other medical documents. We have translated and back translated hundreds of medical document in over 20 languages to leading pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and CROs.
Disadvantages of the Back Translation Process
While using a translation process with back translation ensures a very high degree of accuracy, there are some disadvantages in using a back translation method. The most obvious disadvantage is cost: implementing back translation in the process will increase the project cost by at least 100%, since the volume of translated text is doubled. Another potential problem in using back translation is the disparity between certain languages; for example: equivalent terms may not exist in both languages. Editors may be challenged in considering what constitutes a translation error and what is merely a different way of expressing things in a different language. We recommend that back translation only be used when required by the IRB/Ethics committee.
Using Free Machine Translation for Back Translation
You can use free machine translation tools such as the GTS free online translation tool or Google Translate as an effective way to validate a human translation. Just take the translation you received from a translator and use one of the automatic translation software programs to back translate it into the original language. The back translation may not always be high quality, but it will certainly allow you to test for missing words or mistranslations.