Questionnaire translation in theory and practice: achievements, challenges, and innovations 1

Convenor: Dr Dorothée Behr
Affiliation: GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Session Details

The field of questionnaire translation in cross-national and cross-cultural research has slowly begun, but it has taken up speed and become prominent in survey projects and research since the 1990s at the latest. Best practice in terms of methods (committee approach, back translation, pretesting, translator profiles, etc.) has driven the field; this topic has made immense progress but it is a never-ending story nevertheless, especially if considered in a cross-disciplinary perspective (survey methodology, health, psychology, education, business). The importance of cultural factors, which impact both on language and item content, is nowadays pervasive. However, within survey methodology but also in other and across disciplines, many different meanings – and possibly false restrictions – are attached to the concepts of adoption, translation, adaptation or localization. There is more agreement on the provision of background information on concepts or terms, which was already called for in 1948 (!) (Barioux) and is now a key feature of comparative research. There is by now also agreement on early integration and involvement of translation and translation experts when designing a source questionnaire. The methods of advance translation or translatability assessment embody this strand. IT and translation tools are slowly gaining a foothold in the form of dedicated portals and translation tools, or of corpus linguistics. IT supports both the macro-processes (various stages of translating, assessing and testing) and the micro-processes (the translation as such). Against the backdrop of all these developments, it is a bit surprising that (systematic) empirical research on the effects of different translation versions is still missing – but also here, research has sprung up, the European SERISS project being a prime example.

Researchers and practitioners are invited to present on achievements in the field of questionnaire translation, on topics that are still inconclusive or challenging, and on innovations. Presentations can tackle any of the aforementioned themes, but they can also go beyond those. Presenters can look into the theory but also present their applications in cross-national and cross-cultural survey research and their lesson learned.