All You Need To Know About Survey Translation


All You Need To Know About Survey Translation  Customer Experience
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A single survey may be translated into many languages. Each respondent may view the survey in the language of their choice, and because 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, challenges in translating surveys, and best practices for survey translation.

What is Survey Translation?

The process of translating surveys into all local languages spoken in the study region is referred to as survey translation. It is an essential part of a high-quality survey. 

Incomplete or faulty translations may result in a loss of nuance intended by the impact evaluation team (or 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 come into action when a successful survey addresses the target market, which may or may not speak the same language as the marketing team.

For example, assume you’ve designed an excellent survey in English, but your target audience speaks Spanish, Hindi, French, Arabic, or any of a dozen other languages. It’s a major undertaking to translate surveys for numerous locations, especially if you don’t speak the same language as your target consumer.

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Basic guidelines to Translate Survey

  • The translator is informed of the socio-demographic features of the target population, the manner of administration of the survey instrument, and the location of the survey.
    [Also Read- What is demographic segmentation? ]
  • Provide specific instructions to the translator about the reading level he/she should aim for in the translation and whether he/she should use language that will be 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.
  • Before translating, the translator evaluates the original language survey instrument to identify items, words, or concepts that are difficult to translate.
  • Professional translation into the target language by a natural speaker of the target language is ideally a certified translator.
  • Professional or qualified translators back-translate from the source language into English.
  • The translation is reviewed by bilingual reviewers (or other professional translators).
  • Back-translation and review of the original English-language instrument
  • 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 because they do 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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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-speaking Canada, 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 process to Translate 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 set out at least two weeks for the first translation and another two weeks for revising and evaluating the translations, which should be noted in the survey timetable.

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 translation from the research team’s language to the local language. Depending on the intricacy of the questions in the survey instrument, this procedure might take a few days to a few weeks.

2. Back translation: 

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

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.

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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 doing a survey translation check to see whether any formatting, such as capitalization, is the most effective approach to highlight key terms in your target language.

2. Back-translation is recommended:

Back translation means translating surveys back into English and this is done to ensure that every member of your team is on the same page. 

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, provide context for your survey, including the survey’s goal, a discussion of any expressions or concepts that may be lost in translation, 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 worldwide customer base or need to poll a global staff, survey translation may be a useful tool for getting the information you need.

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