Survey Translation: Vital for Collecting Data & Building Success

by Adriana Romano

A survey is a method of research designed to collect data from a predefined group of respondents. One of its primary objectives is to gain information and insight into specific topics of interest. When done well, surveys provide valuable data concerning people's opinions and behaviors. This data, in turn, can be used as valuable input in order to make important decisions, which makes survey translation another important step to undergo to ensure one reaches all audiences, globally, too.

Given the interconnected globalized world in which we live in, having surveys available in the language of your respondents increases the overall reach as well as accuracy of responses. In this blog we will explore survey translation including:

  • an explanation of what it is
  • types of surveys
  • language equity
  • translation process

Survey translation is the process of translating a survey’s questions and answers into the target languages spoken throughout a particular area of study. Surveys are an invaluable tool for researchers and businesses, assisting them in collecting critical information from participants, clients, and other stakeholders. Outside of medical research and academia, however, brands often rely on surveys to help them understand their clients, create change, and drive business.

Clients like knowing that companies value their feedback. In fact, based on a 2019 Microsoft survey of more than 5,000 consumers across Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, 89% of consumers said that they want companies to ask for their input.

The more languages your survey is translated into, the more people can participate at a much more engaged level, providing more accurate responses with a wider range of data that can be collected. A larger data sample results in an increased level of knowledge which, in turn, leads to a much more successful outcome for your organization.

There are many different kinds of external and internal surveys. For businesses looking outward, surveys could include customer satisfaction, product and performance, market research, as well as demographic surveys. For businesses looking inward, employee satisfaction and exit surveys are common data-collecting tools.

Surveys, which are cost-effective and efficient, can help your business grow. In fact, 80% of companies that see year-over-year growth deploy customer surveys to collect customer experience data, according to Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Gartner.  

Types of Surveys

While there are various types of surveys, there are also different ways of administering them. Surveys can certainly be done on paper, but the Internet, of course, provides more efficient options.

The following are examples of surveys that can be done online, which includes email:

Interviews: One-on-one interviews can be done online in various ways. For example, if a customer browses a specific product on your website, you can follow up with a short email questionnaire inquiring about their interest in the item, or why they did or didn’t buy it. Having this short questionnaire in multiple languages can increase the volume of feedback you receive.

Focus Groups: Marketers can target certain segments of their audience – for instance, women over 50, Black men, or other demographics – by sending an email survey to that group and collecting their specific data. Depending on the target audience, questions and answers may need to be translated.

Open-Ended Questionnaires: This approach demands a bit more from your customer, but it can also yield more substantive results. Asking questions that cannot simply be answered with a yes, no, or a click can offer a deeper dive into your customers’ thinking and feeling about your brand and product. Asking them to type out their own answers also means potentially collecting responses in multiple languages. You would not only need to translate your questions, but also all of the answers in order for the data to be genuinely useful.

Web-Based Surveys: Web-based surveys are increasingly common these days and there are well-known platforms that can not only administer your survey, but also translate it into multiple languages. Services such as Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey can help you create the survey, collect the data, and provide the translations. However, since many web-based platforms use machine translation applications, the accuracy and locale-specific sensitivities may be lacking, so it’s advisable to do your research in advance.

Text: A convenient way to collect information from customers is through a quick text message. SMS surveys are an easy and interactive way for customers to review their experiences. You can send surveys via SMS using any number of survey platforms, but again, you should carefully look into how your survey translations are produced or rely on a professional service to handle it for you.

Language Equity

Whether you’re trying to expand into new markets or manage an international workforce, having a survey or content available in the specific languages of your audience demonstrates good faith and value, even if they speak and read English.

If your focus is on an American audience, survey translation could still be a valuable tool. Considering how the demographics of this country are shifting – 67.3 million residents in the United States now speak a language other than English at home – so inclusivity is crucial to any business’ success going forward.

The Translation Process

What specific questions to ask, how you order them, and how many you include in a survey are critical to its success. You want feedback, but you don’t want to ask your customers or employees to do too much work. Keep in mind that 60% of people say they won’t take a survey that takes longer than 10 minutes, according to a study by SurveyMonkey.

The same amount of care and precision that goes into crafting survey questions should go into translating them.

Given cultural differences need to be considered when translating survey content, word-for-word translations won’t typically be adequate. If survey questions are unclear to the reader, their answers will likely be the same or they won’t be answered at all.

Now, here’s where you’ll see the difference between a web-based program and a professional service – after the source-language survey is created, a translator at a professional translation service will recreate the questions in the preferred target language. Not only will that translator be a native speaker of the target language, but he/she will most likely be located in the target geography, ensuring that the linguist is sensitive to cultural nuances, history, and colloquialisms.

After several rounds of review and proofreading, the translation team will then QA the translated survey by comparing it side-by-side with the source language survey. Each question is checked for accuracy and intent and then delivered to the client. If your survey includes open-ended questions, a professional translation service can assist you with interpreting the results.

In Conclusion

Whether you’re trying to solicit feedback from an international customer base, or you need to poll a globally-positioned workforce, survey translation can be a viable tool enabling you to obtain exactly the information you want.

By working with a professional translation service, you can be confident that your survey questions and answers will be accurate and the translation process seamless. Extend your reach by showing good faith, cultural sensitivity, and language equity to your customers and employees. This, in turn, will contribute to the robust growth of your business and pay significant dividends for a long time to come.

Adriana Romano

Senior Project Manager

"I like working for a customer-oriented company such as Interpro. It’s nice to work with a team always willing to provide the best results."