Literary research will show that Roger Ascham (b. 1515? d. 1568) was probably the first person to record the method of double translation in English. He was a published writer and scholar and is known to have tutored the future Queen Elizabeth. Ascham’s work “The Scholemaster “shows that he further developed this method based on the commentaries of Cicero (b. 106BC d. 43BC). The Great Orator basically referred to the use of the following tools; discernment, structure, knowledge of the language (spoken and written), judgment and the value of customary practices. However the structure of written and spoken languages today may have changed greatly. (Zen philosophy also describes discernment – or true discernment – to be a supremely challenging goal.) In this way, Cicero may have vaguely pointed to this method of translation.
Ascham, never having been a “Scholemaster” (schoolmaster) himself, was highly regarded for his theories of education. The field of education has plainly picked up on this method as an educational tool or process. It is a practice regarded as best for one-on-one education – perhaps on the basis of an assignment. Those who have been through language training will have had the experience of an instructor passing on a written piece to be translated by the student. Some instructors will describe the meaning and values of the thing to be translated – some do not. The language student will then translate the article to the best of their ability and submit that to the instructor. The less-than-perfect translation will be returned with the corrections. The student then “back-translates” the corrected copy and makes a comparison to the original article.
Potential drawbacks to the technique in its use in business have been pointed out. The argument against the method is based on “equivalence”. For a potential business example, a native speaker/translator – who understands the source language – translates some form into the target language. A native speaker/translator of the source language then translates it back into source language. Comparisons and corrections are then made – but this may not eliminate all the issues that can arise from the base method. More rigorous methods of double translation – like iterative translation have been developed to address problem scenarios in translation.