International Survey Translation: This Is How Accuracy Remains A Priority

International Survey Translation: This Is How Accuracy Remains A Priority

Surveys are an essential part of reliable market research strategies. They collect data on the behaviors, needs, and opinions of your client base. What if you would like to expand on this client base and collect data on different markets? Then you should include international survey translation into your strategies, and you shouldn’t do so lightly.

Once you have determined which markets to survey, a different strategy should be developed for each demographic you intend to survey. But it starts with designing a survey that is optimized for translation and keeps an international strategy in mind. This is how to do it!

International Survey Translation: Best Practices 

Identify Your Market

Surveys are all about obtaining reliable data. This is why before you even think about a translation, you should identify your markets. Go further than just selecting a country or region to focus on but identify the exact parameters for your potential customers such as particular demographics, the size of the market, professionals within a certain region, above or under a certain income, and so on.

Key in making this work is to have a clear goal in mind before exploring regional data. This way, you can also be as precise as possible when briefing your Translation team, Translation professionals should be natives with expertise in survey translation and whichever areas you intend to focus on.

The Designing Stage: Prepping With International Survey Translation In Mind

When you are conducting a survey on an international scale, the reliability of your data will depend strongly on the quality of your translation. The most challenging part of survey translation is that all the information must be completely straightforward and unbiased, and variation in culture and context, will create their own unique translation challenges.

Luckily, there are ways you can simplify the process even prior to translation. By keeping the following items in mind, you will make the linguist’s job (as well as yours!) a lot simpler and prevent unnecessary costs.

Use Simple Language

Using simple and straightforward language will help the translators find the ideal translation faster, but it will also ensure that your respondents and data collectors also understand the purpose of your questions. For this reason, it is best to avoid abbreviations, jargon, and acronyms. Additionally, make sure to avoid asking questions that assume prior knowledge from your respondents.

Avoid Try
“In the past fortnight, did you obtain any career-advancement opportunities through ETA?†“In the last two weeks, did you receive any work training opportunities from the Employment and Training Administration?â€

Minimize Open Answers And Custom Fields

That is to say, minimize them when it is possible. Of course, sometimes you need a custom field to get the type of in-depth response you need. But if you can, opt for multiple-choice or yes/no questions. Not only will it reduce translation costs and avoid errors, but it will also reduce the risk of mistakes during the data analysis. Even when you believe an answer should be simple and straightforward enough, try the multiple-choice options just so that you can guide your responders towards the correct terminology even when they need a custom field to complete it.

For example, when targeting the Latin American market:

Avoid Try
“What is your native language?â€
Answer: _____________
“What is your native language?â€
? Spanish
? Portuguese
? Quechua
? Guarani
? Other: _____________

Use Graphics And Visual Aids Only When You Have To

Depending on your demographic, it could be helpful to add graphics. This could be particularly interesting, for example, when dealing with communities with low literacy levels and emoticons can help verify the emotions tied to certain responses. However, keep in mind that these graphics might need local tweaks as well! So only add them when your purpose calls for it. If you are making use of graphics in your survey, make sure you consult your LSP on the ideal usage of graphics for each locale in terms of color, design, and meaning. A qualified LSP will be able to provide you will Desktop Publishing (DTP) services where visual experts can offer informed insights into which design would best, and then also apply it.

The International Survey Translation Phase

The translation stage for surveys is actually trifold. The survey itself will need translating so your target respondents will be able to answer your questions appropriately, but the entries themselves, especially in the case of custom fields, will need translating as well so the data analysis can run smoothly. Additionally, any reports, research data, and presentations that the analysis will bring forth, might need translating as well depending on the demographics you want to expose the information to.

Specific Translation Methods For Surveys

Common linguistic roadblocks can be overcome by committing to a rigorous TEP (Translation, Editing, Proofreading) Process. Make sure the LSP you choose to work with makes use of a Translation (CAT) Tool, that leverages a Glossary including brand-specific, technical and product-related terms and a Style Guide with any Brand-Specific Instructions as well as Translation Memory (TM), so any inconsistencies can be weeded out and the process can be automated at least partially.

Pro Tip! Are you sure you understand the difference between Editing and Proofreading? Have a look at our blog detailing the responsibilities of editors and proofreaders, and know exactly which services to request!

Since accuracy is the highest priority for survey translation, only linguists who are native to the target locale and experience in survey translation will be assigned the translation work. This strategy also includes following the most appropriate translation methods designed to maximize precision. The Back-translation process is exclusively designed to weed out any possible inaccuracies in terminology, cultural ambiguities, and grammatical errors.

Back Translation can be further divided into single-back-translation and double-back translation. Double Back Translation Service offers an extra level of security that will serve surveys very well, since they leave absolutely no room for ambiguity. During double-back-translation, the client offers the original text which is then translated. Subsequently, two independent translation teams translate the documents back to their source language, while a third Linguistic reviewer uses both translations and the notes provided by the clients, in order to create the most complete and accurate version.

Wait, just one more thing! Just to be sure the survey is ready to go, it should be tested among the data collectors after the translation, before being communicated to the respondents.

What The Translator Should Know To Achieve Full Accuracy

While the designing and translation stages all follow crucial steps that can ensure translation quality and efficiency, there is a further matter to consider. Even though a qualified LSP will always provide translators with the necessary experience, the linguist should receive certain data so any reviews or inquiries can be kept to an absolute minimum. These include:

  • Brief you LSP on exactly where the survey will be administered, and which mode of administration will be followed. The selected translators will be located in the area you intend to target, so this is crucial information.
  • Next to the exact region(s), translators should be aware of the reading level they should be aiming for. Leave specific instructions if some of your target audiences require specific needs in terms of language use (e.g. the above-mentioned literacy levels)
  • Allow translators to review the original survey prior to translating. This does not apply to the back translators, but the first translator and final linguistic reviewer will need the original document in order to create the final document. This way, any translation challenges can also be identified early on, and targeted questions and obtain clarification can, if need be.
  • Communicate the goal of your survey very clearly. This will help translators identify the purpose and make informed terminology choices.


When it comes to Survey Translation, the main priority is to provide clear and concise text that leaves no room for ambiguity. The respondents should have a clear idea of what you are asking of them, so you can collect valid data. The key in this, of course, is to know exactly who it is you are targeting. This where an LSP becomes indispensable since they know how to provide native experts who know what your audience needs. In order to make the translation more efficient, it is very helpful to create the survey with translation in mind and focus on simplicity and any special needs/requests your demographic might have.

At Laoret, we only hire native, in-country linguists with years of experience and expertise in survey translation. Our specialized back translation services are designed to achieve the highest level of accuracy and our 24/7 online availability will help you meet any deadline.

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