Friday, 9 September 2016

Back Translation

After drafting, the next stage in our translation process is back translation. What this means is taking the draft and re-translating it back into a language of wider communication (LWC) so that it can be checked. In our case English is the LWC, so the Kope draft is turned back into English.

As back translation is designed to help reveal if the meaning has remained clear and accurate, the English which is used is not natural. It should sound like Kope-English, not like English-English. This happens because each language specifies things differently, and this needs to be shown in the back translation so that it can be carefully checked.

One example of how these differences show up in back translation is that in Kope we have single, dual, trial and plural pronouns. This means that the back translation needs to specify if the Kope said ‘you-1’, ‘you-2’, ‘you-3’ or ‘you-lots’. If it is just back translated as ‘you’ the checker has no way of knowing how many people were involved.

Another example is that as the grammar of English and Kope are very different, some words that are necessary in English are not necessary in Kope. These are included in the back translation in brackets, to indicate that although the meaning is there, the words are not.

Another factor that makes the English sound un-natural is that all names are written as in the draft, and that idioms are spelled out.

Looking at the example of Luke 1:6 you’ll see these and other things going on:
  •          Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. (NRSV)
  •          Riiti oroi’ioi mea oobora dubura ka Iehoma hohoida. Iehoma madeire ka Bubuire ai pimabedioido. (Kope draft)
  •          They-2  lived (as) a good woman and man to Iehoma’s face. Iehoma word/message and law they-2  took care.  (Kope BT)

Learning to back translate like this is tricky. In our translation team we have one man who mastered the art very quickly and another who finds it hard work, but can get there slowly. It is very easy for the back translators to rely on their memory rather than the text, and it is my job to spot when this has happened. One such example was when in Luke 2:7 that back translation suddenly said that they’d ‘laid him in the manger as there was no room in the inn’. Seeing as ‘manger’ and ‘inn’ do not have equivalent Kope terms, the slip was obvious. Once the back translation was revised, the baby was laid in the ‘cow-food-bowl’ as there was no room for them in the ‘guest house’.

Once the back translation (BT) is complete, I enter it into the computer and study it. I look at the BT, the Greek, the English and the Kope. As my Kope improves, I will be less reliant on the BT, but at this stage it is a very helpful thing to have. Looking at my resources, I check to see if the meaning has remained the same and flag questions for checking. More on that next time…

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