Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Translating Questionnaires for Cross-National Surveys: A Description of a Genre and Its Particularities Based on the ISO 17100 Categorization of Translator Competences

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Translating Questionnaires for Cross-National Surveys: A Description of a Genre and Its Particularities Based on the ISO 17100 Categorization of Translator Competences

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Translation is a highly specialized activity that requires a set of diverse competences, ranging from linguistic and cultural, to subject-matter and tool-related, to strategic and service-oriented ones. While many of these competences are general in nature and apply regardless of subject matter and text genre, it is generally recognized that the more a translator knows of a given subject matter--and relatedly, of any pertinent textual genres--the better he or she will be able to translate a given text. This article will outline requirements, challenges, and resources in questionnaire translation based on the ISO 17100 (1) categorization of professional competences of translators (see ISO, 2015). The translation and adaptation of questionnaires has long been a matter of extensive discussion in the social sciences (e.g., Harkness, 2003; Harkness, Villar, & Edwards, 2010), in psychology (2) (e.g., Hambleton, 2005; International Test Commission, 2017), in health research (e.g., Acquadro, Conway, Hareendran, & Aaronson, 2008; Wild et al., 2009), and in business studies (e.g., Chidlow, Plakoyiannaki, & Welch, 2014; Douglas & Craig, 2007). When conducting cross-national studies, these disciplines rely on reliable, valid, and--most importantly--equivalent measurement instruments and data to draw sound conclusions. Against this backdrop, it is surprising that the various genres of research instruments, and particularly the questionnaire genre, have received scant attention in translation studies (exceptions include Behr, 2009; Bolanos-Medina & Gonzalez-Ruiz, 2012; Dorer, 2015; Ozolins, 2009; or Przepiorkowska, 2016). We will begin by providing an overview of key characteristics of cross-national survey methodology, with a special focus on questionnaire translation. Next, the multi-dimensional concept of translation competence will be introduced, using three competence models as an example. Drawing on the ISO 17100 competence model, we will then list requirements, challenges, and resources with respect to questionnaire translation and introduce examples to illustrate them. The concluding section will highlight areas for interdisciplinary research involving both translation studies and cross-national survey methodology. The ultimate goal of this article is to advance knowledge of the questionnaire genre and to encourage further contributions to the field. After all, knowledge of genres in contextual, conceptual, and linguistic terms is crucial in building translation competence and consequently in enhancing translation quality (e.g., Garcia Izquierdo & Borja Albi, 2008).

While we will concentrate on cross-national survey research in this article, the approaches and content equally apply to cross-cultural survey research within a single country (e.g., including diverse groups of migrants or several official languages) or to research and testing of individuals rather than larger groups. Furthermore, this article focuses on academic and particularly social science surveys and will use examples from these areas; we are not concerned with surveys from the field of market research, which may or may not apply the same procedures or criteria to the extent presented here.

2. Cross-national survey methodology and questionnaire translation: A brief overview

A survey is defined as a "systematic method for gathering information from (a sample of) entities for the purposes of constructing quantitative descriptors of the attributes of the larger population of which the entities are members" (Groves, Fowler, Couper, Lepkowski, Singer, & Tourangeau, 2009, p. 2). The typical manner of gathering information is to ask questions of respondents. Given the impact that different wording and formatting of questions can have on the corresponding data (e.g., Schuman & Presser, 1981), a standardized survey interview is crucial to the endeavour of collecting valid and reliable data from respondents. …

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