Market research allows businesses to identify and capitalise on trends, manage risks, and measure consumer sentiment. The benefits are well-documented — but what if there was a way to add further value to your market research surveys? Whether your goal is to expand into new international markets or simply to maximise engagement with your consumer base at home, multilingual survey translation can help. 

The Benefits of Multilingual Surveys…

Multilingual surveys present many opportunities to add value to your market research beyond what surveys in a single language can provide. For one, market research surveys deployed at scale in any language can be used to quickly and easily obtain massive amounts of data from consumers. Opting to make your survey multilingual further maximises the number of potential participants that you can reach, ensuring a robust and extensive data set. This is even more beneficial if your study is dependent on reaching as diverse a population as possible. It has been said that ‘multilingualism in survey design is a basic precondition for improving participation and representativeness of different ethnic populations among adults’.1

Multilingual surveys can also result in increased engagement with your target cohort. Market research agency Lucid argues that higher drop rates — a measurement of how often surveys are being abandoned part-way through — are directly connected to how well participants are able to understand and process the content. This is supported by studies which demonstrated an improvement in item response rate when the survey’s language matched the native language of participants. In other words, respondents will be more inclined to complete your survey if it resonates with them and delivers a positive user experience. 

…And One Major Challenge

the language used in survey interviews can affect every stage of the response formation process [and] respondents may answer the same question differently as a result of different question interpretation - RTI International

It has been suggested that ‘language used in survey interviews can affect every stage of the response formation process’.2 Not only that, but survey participants have even been shown to ‘answer the same question differently as a result of different question interpretation’.3 A paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research cited a study of endorsement labels provided to English and French speakers in the US, UK, France, and Canada. Those labels that were more commonly used on a day-to-day basis in each language received more responses than those that were used less. A similar result was observed in a Dutch study on the cholesterol levels of certain foods — respondents’ awareness was significantly stronger when the localised phrase ‘completely agree/disagree’ was used, rather than ‘strongly agree/disagree’. 

These studies indicate that suboptimal translation of multilingual surveys can lead to significant bias in survey results, compromising the collected data. This presents a major stumbling block since ‘[s]urvey data are meaningless if respondents do not understand the survey questions as intended by the researchers’.4

That last part — ‘as intended by the researchers’ — is key here, and touches on the idea of functional equivalence. Functional equivalence in translation is the idea that a concept understood in its source language is expressed in the target language such that the equivalent conveys the same meaning and intent as the original. And when you consider that equivalence has been described as ‘a prerequisite to derive substantive conclusions from data collected in diverse populations’5, its importance in delivering quality research is clear.

US-Hispanic Linguistic and Cultural Differences 

‘A respondent’s answer to a survey question, or even their decision to participate in the survey at all, is a product of social and cognitive context and may differ across racial and ethnic groups’.6 In the United States, for example, the Hispanic population is hardly homogeneous and, in fact, varies greatly. Not only are there several dialects, for instance, of the Spanish language spoken throughout the country but the United States is also home to several Spanish-language variants as well as multiple cultural differences among its Hispanic population. 

Identity and language differences among US-Hispanic population

Data Source: Pew Research Center

But it isn’t just about language and identity. The US-Hispanic population also differs greatly when it comes to their political, religious, and social views, as well as their purchasing preferences and brand loyalty. With 2020 estimates from the Census Bureau of more than 62 million Hispanics living in the United States, (a number that is expected to rise to nearly 75 million by 2030), and with a collective purchasing power of USD1.5 trillion, the US-Hispanic population is certainly not a demographic to ignore. Reaching this demographic with your market research, however, requires partnership with a skilled and experienced language services provider (LSP).

It is not enough to settle for a literal or technically accurate translation of your survey’s content and hope for the best. A quality translation ‘incorporates the social, cultural, and linguistic elements of each target language to better match respondents’ experience and ensure data quality’.7 Multilingual survey translations and the translators who provide them must accurately reflect the survey’s messaging by remaining ever so sensitive to the original meaning and intent of the source language.

Multilingual Survey Translation with Global Lingo

You would be forgiven for thinking that all this sounds rather complex. Luckily, we here at Global Lingo understand how vital the role of language is in ensuring data quality. We make it our business to ensure that our multilingual survey translation conforms to the highest possible standards of quality, thereby preserving the integrity of your survey data. To make this possible, Global Lingo leverages on our extensive database of over 6,000 specialist linguists working in more than 150 languages. This allows us to offer a number of robust quality assurance processes built up over many years of experience in the market research space. 

Our localisation services will ensure that your survey’s messaging is ideally suited to your target market by considering local context and nuances. This will help to avoid the pitfall of non-equivalence and the possible corruption of your data. We offer back translation of the target content, providing independent third-party verification to ensure our translation carries the same meaning as the original text. But we don’t stop there. Our supplementary link-checking service confirms that your survey is mechanically sound and is working as intended across all languages. In addition, Global Lingo’s professional coders can quickly and accurately process survey responses in accordance with your customised code frames so you don’t have to.

A Trusted Language Partner for Global Market Research

You are in good company when selecting Global Lingo as your agency of choice for multilingual survey translation. We are a trusted language partner for global market research companies, including Ipsos, Kantar Group, GlobalData, and Euromonitor International. We invite you to read about how we assisted Kadence International with localisation of a multilingual survey for a study in 12 markets. We’d be delighted to do the same for you.

Don’t wait to add the value of multilingual research translation for your business. Reach out to us for a quote today.

REFERENCES

1 Kinnunen, J. M., Malin, M., Raisamo, S. U., Lindfors, P. L., Pere, L. A., & Rimpelä, A. H. (2015). Feasibility of using a multilingual web survey in studying the health of ethnic minority youth. JMIR research protocols, 4(2), e53. https://doi.org/10.2196/resprot.3655

2, 3, 4 Sha, M., & Gabel, T. J. (Eds.) (2020). The essential role of language in survey research. RTI Press. RTI Press Book No. BK-0023-2004 https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.bk.0023.2004

5 Zavala-Rojas, D., 2021. A procedure to prevent differences in translated survey items using SQP. [ebook] Available at: <https://www.upf.edu/documents/3966940/3986764/RECSM_wp038.pdf> [Accessed 5 July 2021].

6 Pew Research Center. (2020, May 30). The Unique Challenges of Surveying U.S. Latinos. Pew Research Center Methods. https://www.pewresearch.org/methods/2015/11/12/the-unique-challenges-of-surveying-u-s-latinos/

7 Pan, Yuling & Fond, Marissa. (2014). Evaluating Multilingual Questionnaires: A Sociolinguistic Perspective. Survey Research Methods. 8. 10.18148/srm/2014.v8i3.5483. 

In addition to:

Bureau, U. S. C. (2018, October 4). Hispanic Population to Reach 111 Million by 2060. The United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2018/comm/hispanic-projected-pop.html

Council, Y. E. (2020, February 28). Council Post: Understanding Market Research For Your Business Plan. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/02/28/understanding-market-research-for-your-business-plan/?sh=7c8606726458

Multilingual Survey Research: Do Poor Translations Cause Bias? (n.d.). https://press.uchicago.edu/pressReleases/2013/May/0515Weijiters.html

Shiflett, M., 2021. FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND ITS ROLE IN LEGAL TRANSLATION. [ebook] Available at: <https://www.pulib.sk/web/kniznica/elpub/dokument/Kacmarova3/subor/mullerova.pdf> [Accessed 5 July 2021].

Survey Translation in Market Research: Is it Necessary? Lucid. (2020, December 22). https://luc.id/blog/survey-translation-in-market-research-is-it-necessary/

Taylor, Paul, et al. “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity.” Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 18 Aug. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2012/04/04/when-labels-dont-fit-hispanics-and-their-views-of-identity/.

Understanding Nonresponse Rates: Insights from 600,000 Opinion Surveys, The World Bank Economic Review, Volume 34, Issue Supplement_1, February 2020, Pages S98–S102, https://doi.org/10.1093/wber/lhz040

Vann, L., & *, N. (2020, January 30). Captura Group. Hispanic Online Marketing. https://www.hispaniconlinemarketing.com/2020/01/2020-will-be-the-year-of-the-hispanic/.

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