I'd ideally like to use i18n to handle backend translation but use entity translation to maintain multiple language versions for each content node.

Does this require a lot of extra work or lead to caveats? I'm hoping they just handle different sides of the translation puzzle.

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It's not that difficult or complicated, you just need to know what to do, where and using what. Have a look at Drupal 7 Multilingual Sites book, it has pretty good explanation of the whole process. Essentially, yes, Entity Translation plus i18n modules would take care of most of the things for you.

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