Lori Shelby, Ph.D., Founder & CEO
Translations are expensive and time consuming, so it is very tempting to cut corners. However, if translations are not done accurately they can render survey results difficult to interpret or even completely unusable in some cases.
For example, consider how often we are testing the statistical significance between relatively small differences in survey research (e.g., Mean = 4.3 vs. 4.5). Imagine how much of an impact it makes if your respondents were reading the question differently due to poor quality translations. Your statistically significant result showing that there is a difference between two countries, could be only because of a difference in meaning caused inadvertedly by poor quality translations.
There is another key reason why good quality translations are important...respect for your survey respondents. Asking someone to complete a survey where the translations are not professional makes you and your company look bad. It also has the potential to cause your respondents to question your professionalism, and even to question how much your company values and respects them. Would you complete a survey where the grammar wasn't consistently correct, the language didn't flow like it should, and the wording was occasionally confusing? Your survey respondents likely will not either.
The good news is professional translators are wonderful and the profession has developed solid practices. This includes quality control processes and confidentiality standards.
There are times when Google Translate is appropriate in survey research. I use it often to review emails and survey comments. For some studies, the comment questions will not be explored in depth. These are often only translated using Google Translate or a similar tool. However, when the comments are going to be subject to scrutiny and/or analyzed, they should also be translated professionally.
Check back next week for translation best practices.
The Shelby Global Team
Articles and news from the Shelby Global Team.