5 Tips for Writing Translation Friendly Surveys by Brenna Mulvaney

Are your surveys ready to be globalized? As the world becomes more flat, make sure you are following these cost-efficient procedures before sending your survey to a translator or languages services provider (LSP).

1.) Localize

Make sure the language is targeted to the appropriate audience (English for the US vs. Britain, Spanish for Spain vs. Mexico, etc.). This is called localization: translation of textual material and adaptation of non-textual material into the language of the target locale, while considering the linguistic and cultural characteristics of that locale.

2.) Adapt Demographics

Certain demographic questions are very difficult to replicate in the target culture such as currency, income breaks, education, and ethnicity.

Not only does currency play a large factor when discussing monetary value, but changes for inflation and average annual income will affect how income breaks are distributed. In addition, education systems in other countries are not equivalent to those in the US and the scale of educational levels needs to be adjusted to work with a particular locale.

In some countries, asking questions about ethnicity are illegal. Stay clear of ethnicity questions when writing a survey.

As there is no standardization process with ESOMAR or CASRO, discuss with your translator or LSP about how they would recommend you handle these situations, to ensure unbiased data.

3.) Provide Glossaries for Branding and Proper Nouns

Proper names that might be recognizable in the United States could be off the radar in foreign countries.

Similarly, slogans and branding are often nonsensical when translated into another language.

Provide a glossary of terms you would like to be translated and ones you would like to stay the same. If there is no equivalent of a brand in another country, you can opt for the name to be transliterated (spelled phonetically) in cases of left-to-right languages.

4.) Account for Placeables

When authoring online surveys using placeables, attention needs to be paid to the unique syntax of each language. In online programming, piping in segments in the source language can very easily result in incomprehensible text in the target language.

For example, if you specify a placeable as “D_Q9 1: do 2: would” in the programming part of the survey and use it in the body of the survey, as in “Where |insert D_Q9| you buy Product X?” (meaning either “Where do you buy Product X” or “Where would you buy Product X”, depending on what choice the respondent has made previously), the translator has no way of rendering it in a different language.

The words “do” and “would” have no meaning when standing alone and cannot be translated independently of the remaining sentence.

5.) Avoid Jargon

In addition, review the text for jargon or idioms that could not be easily translated. A poorly written English text will always result in a poorly translated text.

It is helpful to provide style guides, previously translated material, or marketing material from the client in order to ensure consistency.

By following these five tips, you can guarantee a survey well-suited for the target audience.

Article Contributed by:

Brenna Mulvaney

Marketing Manager

CETRA Language Solutions




CETRA offers enhanced translation and interpretation services to the market research industry using our global network of linguists. We are committed to delivering high-quality, on-time cross-cultural communications with professional, friendly, responsive service that gives you peace of mind.