Localization Tips / Translation

Back-translation for high-risk documentation

Quality in translation is hugely important, but within the life sciences industry, incorrect translations could literally be life threatening. Minor mistranslation can put patients at risk, so it’s imperative that translations are performed correctly the first time.


When it comes to clinical labeling, back-translation – the process of taking a translated text and translating it back into its source language to check meaning – is an important step to take prior to global launches. Back-translation projects are carried out by native subject matter experts (SME) of the target language. These specialists, who were uninvolved in the original translation project, perform the back-translation without reference materials or the original source. This translation quality assurance method ensures the translation’s accuracy and is commonly requested by clients in the life sciences industry who have no in-country review support. The aim of this process – sometimes referred to as translation validation – is to allow the client to verify the quality of the work by comparing the back-translation to the original text.

Due to the nature of language, the back-translation will never be exactly the same as the original, but it’s exceptionally useful for identifying mistakes or sources of confusion that may arise from the target language translation.  Back-translations are often performed as literally as possible to express the exact meaning of the translation. Furthermore, grammar is inherently diverse across the linguistic world; back-translation services help spot these grammatical nuances, making the slightest inaccuracy or possible misinterpretation clearly visible.

Though it will initially increase the cost of your project, a back-translation is undoubtedly cheaper than reprinting fees, lost customers or – in the worst case – lawsuits. Even companies with in-country reviewers don’t always have the time to review both forward and back-translations due to workloads and deadlines but, if uncertain, back-translation is the best way to verify that the linguistic meaning is being conveyed correctly.

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Back-translation is highly recommended for high-risk documentation, particularly in the life sciences industry; text relating to medications, clinical trials, patient wellbeing, and medical devices should be consistently back-translated to ensure the level of accuracy. Translation must be clear, precise, culturally appropriate, and handled correctly for each target language audience. The medical and healthcare industry relies heavily on the accuracy of such translations. The risk of not checking thoroughly enough could cost much more than an additional translation fee.


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CSOFT International is a translation, localization, and globalization services provider that helps international businesses reach out to customers around the world.

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