25/10/2022Life Sciences Translation
Going the extra mile – Back Translation in life sciences
When the stakes are high, every precaution is justified
It is not an exaggeration to say that the accuracy of the life sciences industry is a matter of life and death. Blind back translation allows for an extra level of proofing insurance. Although CPSL’s regular translation service already includes a stringent quality assurance process, when it comes to patient safety, an additional step is available for total peace of mind. That step is back translation.
What is back translation?
Back translation is more than a matter of simply translating back and forth. It is defined as a procedure “whereby one or more translators interpret or re-translate a document that was previously translated into another language, back to the original language to check its meaning”.
It is particularly advisable, and perhaps should even be considered obligatory, in the life sciences field for clinical trial documents, marketing materials, forms (including medical and informed consent), surveys, questionnaires, protocols, ads, assessments, reports, marketing materials, and other content including sensitive or high-risk information.
It is a crucial step prior to the multinational launches of all drugs, medical devices, and instructions and manuals, for example, and is a quality assurance method that provides an additional guarantee of accuracy.
What kind of translators do back translations?
Obviously, back translations should be performed by a language specialist who was not involved in the original translation into the target language. The person selected for the job should have no prior knowledge of the objectives or context, so that the back translation will never be exactly the same as the original source text. This is a highly-effective quality assessment tool that can be used by clients, agencies, and translators alike.
Ideally, the translator should be a specialist in your field, have experience in this type of work, and not have been involved with the original translation project. CPSL has a large pool of tried and tested translators available to give you total peace of mind.
When every last detail is critical
A back translation may not coincide entirely with the source in terms of style or use of vocabulary. In other words, the translator of the source may have used a term for which the back translator has used a synonym. The same applies to punctuation, for example, with full stops and commas. Because of this back-translated texts are never identical to the original but there is still no better way of uncovering potential sources of confusion and mistakes.
One way that these types of translation differ from standard translations is that back translations are done as literally as possible to accurately express the meaning of the translation, rather than taking a more ‘artistic’ approach to capture other nuances. The back translation brings to light even the slightest faults or misunderstandings.
Who performs back translation at CPSL? At CPSL, our project managers only assign these critical projects to subject matter experts (SME) who are native speakers of the target language. They specialise in the field and have done similar work in the past, and have never been involved with the original translation project. These translators work ‘blind’ and do not have access to reference materials or the original source which makes it difficult to produce unbiased and accurate work.
Is back translation really necessary?
As we mentioned above, the process guards against potentially lethal mistakes in specialised, technical translations, and medical materials. Even the simplest, seemingly harmless statements can mean something different when translated. We have all seen comical and disastrous examples of mistranslations that have not been picked up. Slight differences may not matter too much in an informal conversation, but in the demanding life sciences industry, accuracy is key.
Sometimes the translator performing the back translation uses a different term from the original translation, in which case the client may be given the choice to use one or the other.
Back translation at CPSL
At CPSL, most back translation projects are three-step processes:
- Step 1: Back translation: A translator not involved in the original job translates the text back into the original language.
- Step 2: Comparison: the original text and the back translation are compared to see how they differ.
- Step 3: We analyse the differences and decide which is the best option, in line with the client’s goal. We look at sentences that have been translated in different ways and decide which is the best option (in terms of context, client terminology, errors, etc.), to create a “Final” version once the whole Back Translation process has been completed.
The ultimate proofreading guarantee for medical localisation projects
We won’t lie. These projects are an additional, time-consuming step. That’s why planning well in advance is crucial in medical projects. When scheduling your translations, factor time in for translation, review, and backtranslation, plus a margin for contingencies. That’s the only way to be sure that your product launches will go according to plan and to meet the exacting standards in place to protect your business and your target audience.
CPSL has a team specialised in life sciences translation to undertake even the riskiest projects
We know that you need clear, accurate, culturally-correct translations for target language audiences. We also know that some medical or pharmaceutical translations need additional guarantees. The belt and braces approach is not necessary for all content, but we do recommend back translation as an additional step in your usual quality assurance process for high-risk materials such as texts relating to medications, clinical trials, patient wellbeing, and medical devices. It may take more time and involve additional costs, but in Life Sciences, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
CPSL has an excellent record of partnering with organisations in the Life Sciences industry. Our team has industry-wide expertise in medical device production and regulation, clinical trial administration, and regulatory compliance for the pharmaceutical corporations. What’s more, our large pool of highly-qualified translators guarantees availability of fresh language experts at all times.
Don’t leave this essential step out of your document processing schedule! Ask us how you can add an extra layer of security to your documents now! We will be delighted to provide you with more detailed information about the entire process, timings, and rates. Give us a call!
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