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  • Writer's pictureRick White - Director of Client Services

Comprehensive Survey Comment Translation – A Crucial Step for Accurate Data

Surveys with open-ended comment fields require accurate translation

Delivering survey content in another language or languages is a significant challenge, one that we work with every day. When you get your surveys in good shape for delivery in your target language(s), you’ve moved past a number of critical hurdles. However survey translation is often just the first piece of the puzzle.

If your translated survey does not contain open-ended comment fields, you may be able to compile results by tabulating the checked-off or selected responses the way you would in a survey in your native language. But when you offer the opportunity to make comments within your answer field, your translation requirements become much more complex.

Comments Are Colloquial

When designing a survey destined for delivery in other languages, you can take steps during the design process to make sure your content will work in other cultures without significant rewriting for each target audience. Removal of things like colloquialisms from your questions makes translation much easier. But you can’t remove colloquialisms from the comment responses to your questions: They are, by nature, colloquial. Compiling these responses and interpreting their meaning requires Comment Translation, a different kind of translation challenge, one that is critical to successfully completing this form of market research.

Comment Translation Challenges

The challenges faced when translating comments in survey responses are not insignificant. They include:

  1. Labor intensive Every survey comment must be translated individually and should remain in the context of the individual survey. Comments are often used to offer survey participants the opportunity to expand on the checkbox answers. These personal responses can represent a goldmine of information that cannot be gathered with predetermined answer templates.

  2. One way to cut costs and speed this process up is to use Machine Translation (MT) to capture the general meaning of the responses.

  3. A different audience. When a survey is translated into a language for delivery in that language, the translation targets survey respondents. When comments are translated, the translation is for the survey data analysts. It should focus on the intent of the comment.

  4. Interpretation. Colloquial translations require native-language translators with a clear understanding of the local cultural context. Comments are a form of speech, rather than formalized written communication. There are nuances that simply cannot be understood in a word-for-word translation. They require interpretation.

  5. Data analysis. When you compile comments in your native language, you can assign values to them by sentiment, definition of specific issues being raised, etc. Even with comment translation back into the original survey language, it can be challenging for data analysts to understand the intended meaning of the comment. Effective comment translation can make analysis much easier.

This Specialized Service Requires Specialized Translators and Data Analysts

But there are options

Our Comment Translation Services team takes into consideration all of these issues and we have developed translation and review processes to help you compile, analyze, and understand the critical insights contained in your survey comments. In surveys requiring fast turnaround and a more general interpretation of meaning we can use MT in combination with review by our localization team. Knowing the challenges and options involved in interpreting open-ended comments is critical. Our experts can advise your survey designers on developing surveys that are optimized for translation. We can also help clarify meaning for your data analysts. This can mean the difference between an ineffective and an effective, cost-efficient survey project in multiple languages.


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