Liz Robertson, co-founder of Robertson Languages, has been honoured with a prestigious lifetime achievement award at the Association of Translation Companies’ (ATC) 2017 Language Industry Summit Awards. Designed to recognise and celebrate success in the language services industry, the annual awards covering a range of categories were handed out during at gala dinner at the ATC’s 2017 Language Industry Summit in London. Liz received the Eichner Distinguished Service Award, recognising a lifetime’s contribution to the language industry. Her fellow director at RLI, Bob, picked up the award on her behalf. Liz’s influential work in the industry has included being Chair of the ATC’s National Council from 2006-2010 and being a former President of the European Union of Associations of Translation Companies. A founding member of the international group which developed the international standard for translations, she currently participates in the on-going development of ISO standards for the translation industry. She’s an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, awarded for her work on translation standards. Liz, whose special interests are in translation, inter-cultural issues, quality standards in the translation industry, process improvement and problem solving, co-founded Robertson Languages in 1989. The company provides language training, interpreting, localisation and content management services to business and organisations throughout the world.
Back translation involves translating a text that has already been translated back into its original language again. The first translation and the second (back) translation are then compared and reconciled in order to test the quality and accuracy of the original translation. Because all languages have many different equally correct ways of expressing the same concept, a back translation cannot be expected to reproduce the exact wording of the original document, although a detailed comparison between the two texts should reveal any significant differences in meaning and therefore a possible error. However, it would still need to be decided whether the error was in the original translation or had been introduced in the back translation.
There are two steps involved in the process:
1 Back translation
• Should be done by an independent translator with equal knowledge of the subject who has not seen the original text
• Should be done as literally as possible
• Should not be done by a different supplier to avoid conflict of interest
• Should be done by another person
• There should be clear rules that differentiate between variations of style and differences of meaning
• If a difference of meaning is identified, it is necessary to determine whether the possible error is in the original forward translation or was introduced in the subsequent back translation.
• Differences need to be resolved
• Should identify basic factual errors (eg copy-typing figures, omissions)
• Does not remove the need for post-editing and proofreading the original translation
• Adds another layer of time and expense
• Adds another step and another person giving another opportunity for human error
• Needs yet another party/process to arbitrate between differences
• Reconciliation is an extremely skilled and responsible task
Translation followed by back translation and the reconciliation of the two texts produced is a thorough method to identify basic errors and omissions although it involves additional time and expense. The reconciliation should be done by skilled, experienced professionals who have been fully briefed by you, not by individuals for whom there might be a commercial advantage to finding faults.