Back translation as a means of giving translators a voice


  • Uldis Ozolins RMIT


back translation, medical translation, author-translator interaction




While relatively little attention has been paid in translation literature to issues of back translation, and translators often express negative views about its validity, this methodology has become entrenched in a large field of translation particularly in international medical and psychosocial translation, and is promoted by bodies such as the World Health Organization. Despite this, back translation continues to be perceived negatively by many in the translation profession. Yet this article argues that a suitable methodology of back translation can not only be a useful means of quality control if carefully used, but can perhaps unexpectedly put the translator in a position of having a voice visa vis the clients, and be able to do what is too rarely the case in translation project management – establish an ongoing dialogue between a translator and client for mutual benefit. A case study is made of the translation of a medical diagnostic tool for prioritising hip and knee surgery in Melbourne, Australia, which employed a back translation methodology and resulted in robust interaction between authors and translators.