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  • Writer's pictureRick White - Director of Client Services

3 Challenges in Market Research Translation - And Where Technology Fits In

Quick Field Times, Survey Programming, and Quality Management

We translate market research surveys every day into a variety of languages, target markets, and varied subject-matters (medical, technical, general consumer). The challenges that present themselves in market research translation projects are unique, but they are navigable by an experienced translation service provider. Technology is rapidly evolving, and its providing new opportunities to design highly adaptable and efficient translation workflows. Let's examine 3 common challenges, and where technology is providing new opportunities for building solutions.

Outdated data doesn’t cut it, but automation only helps so much

One of the principal challenges in market research translation is speed. Research focused on subjects such as political polls or product research can be very time sensitive. The clients ordering the research are using it to drive their planning on a daily, even hourly basis. As we’ve written about previously, even with emerging technology, a technology that can turn human translations around in hours as opposed to days isn't quite there yet. Basic machine translation (MT) can help researchers quickly assess responses in open comment fields, but MT’s effectiveness falls off quickly when faced with less commonly spoken languages. We use it in our workflows, but human editing and review are still a requirement.

Survey development platforms and ‘automated’ translation workflows

As any market researcher understands, part of survey creation is an art. The goal is to create surveys that don’t slant results or miss insights. The leading survey authoring and delivery platforms like Decipher and Confirmit make building surveys easier and faster, but you don’t want to extract survey content and responses out of context for translation and localization. That’s why we integrate directly with the primary survey platforms and always deliver properly formatted translations so they can be quickly distributed and assessed.

The technology is here to automate the delivery of survey files to us with a push of a button, have them translated and reviewed, and then have the translated and formatted surveys returned to the research company with another click. This may seem like true automation, but the quality issues with machine translation mentioned above still require humans doing the translations and/or editing the MT output. Again, while MT is evolving quickly, it isn't quite there yet.

Quality management is also critical to the localization process, especially when it comes to delivering culturally respectful content.

As we’ve outlined in a series of country-specific articles that you can also find in our resources section, each country and society has their own unique things that must be taken into consideration when designing and translating surveys. Why is this critical? Because it materially affects responses and completion rates. If a question offends, makes a laughable faux pas, or just sounds awkward, you’re going to lose your audience quickly. This is why there is so much emphasis on the localization aspect of the translation processes. This is where we can bring native speaking subject matter expertise to bear and work with your survey designers to align your content with local mores.

The limits of workflow automation

Automation does help with certain kinds of workflow challenges, including:

  1. File formatting

  2. Elimination of redundant translations with translation memory software

  3. File transfers between the research company, the translation service, the translator(s), and the reviewers

  4. Centralizing review processes in an application like our cloud-based intellireview application to manage version control

These automated steps save money and time but ultimately there must be humans pushing the buttons, doing the translations and reviews, and quality checking the end results for accuracy and cultural relevance.

We’re on the automation train

We are fully committed to automating as many of these processes as is practical, without compromising quality. We develop software to fill in any functionality that can be improved by automation, including APIs and connectors to connect us directly to our MR clients’ workflows. We’re seeing many claims of full automation, and while it is true that MR surveys do lend themselves to a high degree of automation, you still can’t rule out the human factor. It is not going away in the foreseeable future. But turnaround times are getting faster, reformatting of content shouldn’t be a factor, and the review processes combined with expertise helps keep your survey quality high. It’s a constant refinement process.


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