Survey Translation in Market Research: Is it Necessary?

Sep 8, 2020 | Marketplace

Should you translate international surveys?

It’s a question we hear all the time: “Do I really need to translate my international surveys?” 

Lucid has partnered with Language Connect, an industry-leading translation company, to provide a thoughtful answer to that question. Together, we will explore international translation best practices in detail. Our goal is to help multinational market research customers best utilize their budget to secure the most insightful data.

We’re going to address the importance of translating surveys to optimize respondent comprehension to provide an overall better experience for the respondent and render better results for you, the researcher. 

Non-English completes increase each year

Over the last five years, Lucid has seen massive growth in international completes – which also means an increase in studies where English is not the primary language. As you can see, our Marketplace average of non-English completes in 2016 was less than 5 million. Today, we’re seeing those numbers more than double with over 10 million non-English completes in 2020. 

 Line graph depicting a rise in non-English survey completions

The following list shows the languages that have grown more than 25% year over year for both Lucid and Language Connect:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese Traditional
  • Dutch
  • German
  • Hungarian
  • Japanese
  • Kannada
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Slovak
  • Spanish
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese

With these growth trends, we want to settle the score once and for all regarding translations: are they simply nice to have in market research, or are they actually a requisite for sound international research? 

Understanding translation vs. localization

To start, we want to define two terms: translation and localization.

Translations enable organizations to reproduce their own words in another language. In market research, translations are a key first step to entering new markets across the world and connecting directly with a target audience in their native language.

Localization is an in-language translation process that refines and adapts content to suit the target market so that communications are tailored to the audience’s culture and local nuances. The localization process also incorporates adapting non-linguistic factors to a local market, such as imagery, iconography and currencies. 

When it comes to reaching a large audience through a single language, English is the go-to as the most widely spoken language in the world. Although, with approximately 1.3 billion speakers, this reach covers just 17% of the global population.

The growth seen in non-English speaking markets provides a clear indication that market research has expanded in reach in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. Yet without localizing materials to these markets, you run the risk of losing what could be gained from this growth. In fact, by localizing research processes to the global top 10 most spoken languages, you can expand your reach to 80% of the world. 

The impact of poor (or omitted) translations

At Lucid, we’ve noticed two primary issues when translations and localizations are done haphazardly or forgone completely:

1. High Drop Rates

Drop rates are a direct reflection of respondent experience in a particular survey. A primary reason respondents choose to exit a survey opportunity without completing it is when the content is incomprehensible. Think about having a conversation with someone when neither of you can speak the other’s language. Tough, right? 

Another reason for choosing to exit a survey opportunity without completing it is when the content is offensive. The smallest detail could alter the audience’s perception of a message; for example where a ‘thumbs up’ image may be a positive symbol in the West, in the Middle East it is considered an offensive hand gesture. 

2. Data Quality

For respondents that continue taking a survey without a clear understanding of the questions, data quality is at risk. Typically, respondents make assumptions and answer survey questions based on their assumptions. 

When misunderstandings occur, the data gathered does not yield usable insights, and as such, the onus of data cleaning and determining if data is accurate and insightful becomes a responsibility of the researcher. Translations that are done poorly or not at all require more time in the data analysis phase of the research, and time = money. 

Long-term effects on market research

Additionally, there is a long-term impact on the industry as a whole. As insights professionals, we have a responsibility to preserve market research participants for the industry. If respondents regularly have poor survey experiences based on their inability to interpret or understand questions, they are less likely to remain engaged and active in the market research industry.

Taking care to translate and localize all forms of communication allows content to become authentic to the market and create instant customer empathy and reassurance, enabling the core message and purpose of your research to be heard loud and clear. Through Lucid’s partnership with Language Connect, we ensure that each translator is not only linguistically skilled, but also based in the country to stay on top of the dialect and speaking trends. This way, you can communicate with an international audience as you would in your own native language. 

At Lucid, we pride ourselves on helping researchers reach the right audiences for their questions – whether global or domestic. Our customers often have questions about which survey elements need to be tailored for specific regions. While we understand the trade-off between affordability and reach, translations are never an option in our mind! Translations are mandatory to ensure high quality and actionable insights in market research.

Stay tuned for the next part of this blog series where we look at the tech-forward evolution of the translation industry and how to incorporate translations into your market research effectively and efficiently.

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