All You Need To Know About Survey Translation


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In this increasingly interconnected and globalized world, where customers can buy whatever they want from anywhere in the world, it is important to understand the needs and preferences of a global audience. 

One such powerful tool that allows you to gather information from a diverse population is automated survey translation software. 

A single survey may be translated into many languages. Each respondent can view the survey in the language of their choice. Additionally, since there is only one survey containing all translations, all results will be returned to the same dataset. You may translate all of the questions as well as the display name and description for each survey.

This article will teach you about what survey translation is, the challenges in translating surveys, and the best practices for leveraging survey translation services.

What is Survey Translation?

The process of translating surveys into multiple languages spoken among the target population is referred to as survey translation. It is an essential part of gathering high-quality survey data and ensuring inclusivity. 

Incomplete or faulty translations may result in a loss of nuance intended by your research team or may altogether affect the meaning of a question. It has the potential to destroy all of the efforts that go into creating well-crafted surveys.

Surveys help an organization to know about their customers, make changes and drive business. Survey translation services help you in making sure that your surveys reach a wider audience beyond the language barrier, especially when your research team may or may not speak the same language as the research team.

For example, assume you’ve designed an excellent survey in English, but your target audience speaks Spanish, Hindi, French, Arabic, or any dozen other languages. It’s a major undertaking to translate surveys into multiple languages, especially if you don’t speak the same language as your target consumer. Leverage an automated survey translation software that enables you to translate your online surveys into multiple languages so you can reach a wider audience and uncover opportunities.

Reach a global audience beyond language barriers.

Benefits of survey translation

Translating surveys in multiple languages helps you engage more audience as it allows non-native speakers to share their opinion with you. It not only increases response rates but also boosts customer satisfaction.

Translating your surveys demonstrates that you want to hear your audience irrespective of the language they speak. This shows your appreciation of the customers and also helps customers appreciate your efforts.

Let’s look at some other benefits of translating surveys in various industries.

1. Increase market insights:

Translating market research, or customer experience surveys can help brands explore a diverse group of respondents, learn about their products/services, uncover new market opportunities, and understand customers’ experiences.

Quantitative market research survey translations help you learn about the preferences and needs of customers in different markets. It also helps explore a new market before entering it and gather opinions on

products and services from a global audience. As a result, you can tailor marketing and sales strategies based on the cultural significance of the various customer segments.

For example, let’s say a consumer goods company wants to expand into a new market in South America. By translating their surveys into Spanish and Portuguese, they can gather feedback from the prospects on

the market needs, preferences, and competition. You can also learn the cultural significance and leverage the insights into your business plan and marketing strategies.

2. Improve patient care:

Survey translation in the healthcare industry can help care providers cater to a diverse population. It can help you understand the patient’s medical history, health, cultural beliefs, and practices. This enables the

providers to tailor their care and meet the needs of a diverse patient population.

For example, a survey in Vietnamese can help care providers understand the patient’s medical condition, symptoms, & cultural beliefs. Care providers can make the patient feel heard and use the data to offer

personalized care.

3. Increase diversity and inclusivity:

In social research, translate your surveys to gain a more comprehensive understanding of social issues and of the diverse population. It can help you study social phenomena such as attitudes, behavior, and

relationships between diverse groups of people.

Translating surveys can also help you understand cultural differences and similarities, thus allowing more effective cross-cultural communication. Additionally, gathering data from different cultural/ language

backgrounds also helps you represent a diverse population and enhance cross-culture understanding.

4. Make informed policies:

Multi-lingual surveys play a critical role in government decisions. It helps you gather public feedback on different policies, programs, and services. The insights can help you understand the impact of policies on

the different groups and also their opinion on those policies.

For example, a city can use multi-lingual surveys to gather data from a diverse group of residents on the public transportation system. It can help the city council understand the gaps in services, pain points, or

satisfaction to ensure inclusive policies.

[Also Read- What is demographic segmentation? ]

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Challenges in Translating Survey

When attempting to express the contents of a survey in a target language, the art of translation is never more scrutinized. Translators have to face so many challenges while doing survey translation. Here are some of the challenges faced with survey translation;

1. Conceptual variation

The translation is done from the source language to the target language and sometimes it is difficult to find a standard equivalent for the word in the target language. Not every word has the same meaning as other words. The same word means something different and can have a different concept when used in different-different places. 

The definition of equality, for example, differs between the United States, English and French-speaking Canada.

One also has to face challenges when it comes to the context. The currency sign, for example, may come before or after the number, with or without a space, with or without a comma or a period denoting thousands and millions, and so on. When attempting to evaluate or combine data, this might easily cause technological challenges.

2. Regional or cultural variations

Cultural issues in translation develop as a result of the two languages’ disparities in conveying identity and lifestyle. Translators will struggle to translate abstract or tangible notions from the source language/culture (SL/C) into the target language/culture (TL/C).

Cultural allusions present difficulties for translators since they are gaps in the target culture. These gaps include the two cultures’ beliefs, conduct, education, and customs.

For example, Personal information sharing in a survey is an excellent example.

3. Inadequate context

It is quite unusual for a translator to deliver all translations without first understanding the intended meaning and messaging in the source article. If they don’t understand this, the translated version of any content they work on will be inaccurate.

This is where things may get a little complicated. Projects would take an eternity to finish if translators were to find out the context on their own. Worse, they frequently got things incorrect. This is because they would frequently be speculating on the contextual background meaning of jargon, slang, and other words and phrases in the original content.

For example, once the reader is aware of the contextual background meaning, the statement above changes. As an example:

“As soon as it was his time, Joey’s eyes brightened up. ‘I will destroy you!’ he said. Then he announced the final two board coordinates. ‘You sunk my warship!’ he said, looking depressed.”

Is not the same as:

“The accused sat in court with a fearful expression on his face. His former business associate was testifying against him. All he could recall was their last altercation, during which his ex-partner yelled, ‘I am going to destroy you.’

A smart translator knows what is lost when a language is taken out of context.

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The three-step process of translating the survey

Inadequate due diligence throughout the survey translation process can result in delays, confusion, and field mistakes, as well as erroneous data collecting. The study team needs to realize that successful or correct translation takes time. Best practices recommend that the research team hire a native translator and share the survey objective to evaluate the translations.

A content-focused pilot is frequently used by researchers to obtain relevant input on the survey. After finalizing and agreeing on the contents of the survey, they may begin to translate the survey, which includes the following steps:

1. Forward translation: 

This refers to the translation from the research team’s language to the local language. This means you start translating the survey questions, instructions, and any other content from the source language to the intended language

Depending on the intricacy of the questions in the survey, this procedure might take a few days to a few weeks.

2. Back translation: 

After receiving the initial survey translation, researchers transmit just the local language version to a separate translator, who translates it back into the research team’s language. 

In this step, a translator who has no knowledge of the original survey translates the translated survey into the source language. This helps ensure that the translation is accurate and the meaning and intent is not lost. 

3. Reconciliation: 

The process of comparing the original survey to the back-translated survey is referred to as reconciliation. At this point, researchers should identify any differences and classify them as minor (such as phrasing errors) or substantial (like changes in the meaning of a question).

Then, the research team can arrange a meeting with the two translators to address the differences and reach an agreement on a final translation. Someone from the research team should keep track of any queries where major content concerns were raised during this discussion. This will enable the research team to debate these with local equivalents in the following step to verify that the final phrasing accurately represents the original objective.

Basic guidelines to translate survey

Before we explore the best practices, let’s take a look at the basic guidelines.

  1. Leverage an online survey software to automatically translate your surveys into multiple languages and save the time and effort of your research team. 
  2. Once translated, review the translation to identify gaps in translation. 
  3. Inform the translator of the socio-demographic features of the target population, the manner of administration of the survey, and the location of the survey.
  4. Provide specific instructions to the translator about the reading level he/she should aim for in the translation. Should they use language that is widely understood by a diverse range of speakers of the target language, or whether the translation should reflect language usage by speakers from a specific region or country?
  5. The translator must evaluate the original language of the survey to identify items, words, or concepts that are difficult to translate.
  6. Professional or qualified translators should also back-translate from the source language into English.
  7. A committee composed of the translator, back-translator, and reviewers will resolve any differences or difficulties in the translation, and this may require one or more phone or in-person meetings.

Translators may find terminology or concepts that are difficult to translate. As some expressions may not have the same or similar meaning in the target language as they do in English throughout the translation process. 

This will lead to conversations regarding the item’s objective or intent in English. Such talks are necessary for the creation of a high-quality translation. These talks, however, do not replace any qualitative or quantitative study to examine the cultural appropriateness of the survey’s ideas or domains or the instrument’s performance when fielded.

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Best practices for survey translation

There are a lot of advantages of survey translation. Such as, You can reach your customers on their terms, allowing feedback from all your customers rather than just the English-speaking fraction.

But to realize these advantages, you need to translate surveys well. So, here are a few tips to follow while doing survey translation;

1. Consider the formatting:

While translating your surveys, check to see whether any formatting, such as capitalization, is the most effective approach to highlight key terms in your target language.

2. Use back-translation:

Back translation means translating surveys back into the source language, and this is done to ensure that every member of your team is on the same page. To conduct this step, hire a translator who doesn’t have any knowledge of the original survey. This way, you can ensure that the intended meaning is conveyed and not lost in translation.

3. Bring in a native speaker:

Use a professional translator or have someone from the local team proofread your survey. If you use a translation service, it’s best to offer as much information as possible. 

Provide context for your survey, including the survey’s goal and mention expressions or concepts that may be lost in translation. You should also mention when and how the survey will be administered, audience demographics and reading level, level of formality, and whether regional dialects will be required.


Whether you’re looking for feedback from a global customer base or workplace employee, it can help to get the information you need. 

In conclusion, it is the best tool to promote inclusivity in various industries and gather accurate and representative data. The impact of translating surveys is far-reaching. It helps ensure that you hear individuals from diverse backgrounds and include each of their feedback in the decision-making process. 

As businesses and organizations around the world continue to expand their reach and globalize, survey translation software will remain a critical tool to promote effective communication and represent populations across different cultures and languages.


1. What is survey translation?

When you translate your surveys into different languages, it is known as survey translation. The process involves translating the questions, instructions, or any other text within the survey into the target language. This allows respondents to provide their responses in the survey language. 

2. Why is translating surveys important?

It is important as it helps you reach a wider audience and obtain more accurate data from representative samples. 

If a survey is only available in one language, it excludes people who do not speak that language. Translating the survey into multiple languages enables researchers to gather more diverse and representative responses.

3. What are some common challenges of survey translation?

The translation, when done by survey translation software, may not be entirely accurate. Some common challenges include accurately translating technical terms, idiomatic expressions, and cultural references.

Additionally, you must ensure that the translations are culturally appropriate for the target audience.

4. Should you use a survey translation app for the purpose of translating surveys?

You can leverage a robust survey translation app to automate the translation in certain circumstances. An app allows you to automate the process making it faster and more cost-effective.  

You should use automated translation software when you have a limited budget, time constraints, and a large-scale survey project. 

However, you should always have human translators review and edit the machine-translated text to ensure it is accurate and culturally appropriate.

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