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Wayne Rooney shows why back translation isn’t always useful

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Wayne Rooney was interviewed by La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper. Clearly Mr Rooney can’t speak Italian so the interview was translated into Italian for publication.

For some reason the original interview was then ‘back translated’ from this Italian translation and published as the English version of the interview. So far so good you might think.

Now anyone who is familiar with the Manchester United and England striker, will know that while his feet are exemplary on the pitch, he’s not known to posess the wit of Oscar Wilde or the brain of Einstein.

Back translation can give a totally different impression

However, readers of the back translation of the interview, who’ve never heard him speak, may well form a different opinon.

Exhibit A

Q: At 26, do you still consider yourself to be in a state of evolution?
A: “There are many ways to grow football-wise. You go slow or are pushed to go faster, otherwise you get left behind. For me, there would be trouble in stopping learning.”

Exhibit B

Q: Who is or was your perfect partner?
A: “Perfect partners don’t exist. Perfect conditions exist for a limited time in which partnerships express themselves best.”

Exhibit C

Q: You could have won the Puskas award with your bicycle kick against City: then Neymar won it with the goal against Flamengo…
A: “The important thing is to be there, score when needed. It’s better if the goals are beautiful, better still if they are important.”

Exhibit D

Q: How do you score a goal like the bicycle kick?
A: “You stop thinking with your head and start thinking with your gut. Just like when you bring a child into the world.”

This just goes to show that a back translation can be a great way to check a translation is what you want it to be, just don’t be surprised when you get a translation back which doesn’t match your original. In many respects translation and back translation is like a game of Chinese Whispers.

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