• Andrew Pulcino - Director of Technology

When to Use Machine Translation Tools Within Your Global Surveys

Working with international market research surveys at scale can be a headache. Translating all the survey questions and open-ended verbatims back into English can be complicated and expensive- especially if you are working with multiple different languages and have hundreds of questions and answers.


Using machine translation tools like Google Translate can be beneficial when working with global market research surveys. Machine translation is great as it can automate the bulk of your translation, which in return gets you your data back for analysis faster.


However, machine translation is only beneficial for parts of the survey and not so much for others - here we explain why.

Open-Ended Survey Responses


Typically, market research surveys include multiple-choice questions along with open-ended responses. These open-ended responses, also known as verbatims, allow the survey respondent(s) to provide additional detail to their answer. Many surveys will have multiple verbatims and the respondents’ answers will vary from a few words to a couple of sentences.


If the study is looking to collect feedback from several hundred respondents across multiple target markets, the word count of these verbatims can add up quickly and the translation can take quite a while. This can cause some problems - we all know that speed is of the essence when translating market research content because accurate data analysis requires the insights to be as fresh as possible.


Taking survey verbatims and putting them directly through a machine translation tool will give your translator a time-saving advantage. While the translation won’t be perfect at the first pass, you’ll get an output of a high enough quality that a human translator can go through and post-edit the translations. Basically, the linguist will have the “bones” of the translation to work with, and they can quickly go through the text and make whatever tweaks as they see fit.


Because open-ended responses don’t have the same localization nuances required when translating the questionnaires themselves, machine translation is a fantastic way to gain efficiencies here within your market research translation process.

Survey Questions

Survey questions are developed with an express intent in mind. The questions are written in an explicit way to draw out a certain response, which adds a layer of complexity when it comes to translating the content.


For example, screening questions and demographic questions will need to be localized and adapted to each market and language the survey is targeting. This is when the linguist will analyze the intent behind the question and take the culture of the target market into consideration when developing a properly translated and localized survey question.


If this doesn’t happen, the respondent may unknowingly skew the data by responding incorrectly. Because of this risk, it's important to have a human linguist localize all the survey questions, which doesn’t make it the best fit for machine translation.


Instead, we recommend working with an experienced linguist that is experienced in market research translations to comb through your survey questions and localize them properly.

At Language Intelligence, we’re proud to be ISO-certified and use native-speaking, in-country translators. We only work linguists with market research expertise and utilize proprietary technology to ensure a seamless translation and localization experience from start to finish. Let’s chat about market research- give us a call!