Whenever we’re asked to do a back translation, we instinctively recoil and kindly refuse.
It may not seem like a logical business choice, but to me, back translations are first and foremost a way end clients have to control your work that is far more intrusive than making sure quality is up to scratch. It’s as if they were saying: I don’t really know your mother tongue and since I can never be sure whether you’re good or not, I’ve decided to bring it all back to my language so that I can judge for myself.
And this really irks me.
But of course, this is not all there is to it.
I’m sure at the root of it there’s a lack of communication between the middle entity, that is the company between ourselves, the LSP, and the end clients, and the end client themselves. Very often the middle company does not have any Italian linguists and they have to find ways to reassure a client that they cannot reassure by other, more persuasive means. Hence the back translation.
But is it really effective?
We all know that when translating “you lose some, you gain some”, but what happens when your reverse the combination? I’m sure the end client thinks that if all that was there to begin with is not there in the back translation, then… A-ha!, there’s your mistranslation! But it does not really work quite this way and when you end up having to justify why “more” can and should be translated as “many” if there’s no comparison to follow (i.e. more than… something), well… when this happens frustration kicks in and you end up having to justify your own language to people who don’t speak it nor understand it.