Online Translation Testing (OTT): What is it and how can it impact your international surveys?

Imagine this scenario…

Your translation company used all of their best survey translators for all of your target languages. The survey translation and review were completed by qualified linguists, and you’re confident that you’ve received a quality translation. But after the survey’s already gone to field, you receive feedback that your foreign language version has some serious issues! Text inserts have created grammatical errors, certain hidden questions weren’t even translated, and a couple of questions look completely crazy due to the text being too long. Now, valuable time has been wasted. Even more problematic, valuable data might be uncollected or inaccurate.

How could this happen?! Why weren’t these mistakes noticed during the original survey translation?

An important quality step, which we call ‘Online Translation Testing,’ or ‘OTT’ could have prevented this debacle. Often, linguists will not be able to visualize how a survey is meant to function in the .XML file until they are given the opportunity to see everything in context online. For example, in the file the translator receives, the answer lists may appear a significant distance away from their corresponding questions. They can easily be misinterpreted when viewed out of the context of their online format. If the linguist is translating from the questionnaire in Word, certain things like hidden questions or instructions may not be included in the file for translation and could be missed altogether. OTT makes sure that the survey going live will appear as it should and makes sense in the target language. As a result, the data you receive will be that much more accurate.

What is Online Translation Testing, exactly?

OTT is not a test of the survey logic. Survey links should be tested before sent to translators to ensure that the logic is working correctly and that the survey will not lock linguists out prematurely. After the translation and review, including any in-country review, have been completed, the linguist will complete the survey as if they are an actual respondent, ensuring that the survey functions the way it was intended. This is usually done by the original translator or reviewer. Since the survey translations are essentially finalized, OTT focuses instead on display and functionality issues which may arise in terms of localization. The linguist will list all issues – whether they were problems that the linguist could fix him/herself in the survey translation file or if they are problems your programmer will need to address.

What sorts of issues do linguists look for during OTT?

Here is a brief list of some of the most common problems which are detected during the Online Translation Testing process:

  • Missing or incorrect HTML tags, e.g. which could cause a whole section of a paragraph to appear bold rather than just the intended word.
  • Any untranslated question or code that was missed in the XML.
  • A stoppage where they get stuck and cannot move past a question due to broken programming.
  • Question text that does not match the answer choices / response scales, or vice versa
  • Any inconsistencies. Similar phrases/questions should have similar translations. For example, if the same scale is repeated in the survey, the exact same wording should be used throughout the translation.
  • Corrupt or invalid characters: i.e. Out-of-context characters or question marks (?) appearing in the middle of sentences, etc.
  • Insert text that needs to be updated to fit the context, e.g. to correct spacing before and after the insert, to place the insert in the correct grammatical location, and that the insert is translated appropriately for the context.

Do we have you convinced that this is an important quality step in your survey translation process? We certainly hope so! The good news is, it’s not hard to incorporate this step. We’ve put together a list of the top 5 things you can do to make sure that your Online Translation Testing goes smoothly. If you’re ready to be an OTT expert, your LI project manager is ready to help you. If you have some more questions first, give us a shout via our Contact Page.
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