Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Questionnaire Translation in the European Company Survey: Conditions Conducive to the Effective Implementation of a TRAPD-Based Approach

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Questionnaire Translation in the European Company Survey: Conditions Conducive to the Effective Implementation of a TRAPD-Based Approach

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is to outline how and for what reasons a modified version of the Translation, Review, Adjudication, Pretesting, and Documentation (TRAPD) approach to survey questionnaire translation (Harkness, 2003) was adopted by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working conditions (Eurofound) for the first time for the 2013 edition of its European Company Survey (ECS 2013). The paper is structured as follows. We first discuss the importance of the concept of equivalence in cross-cultural research and discuss some of the solutions that have been proposed to address the issue. We then review back-translation-based as well as collaborative approaches to assess translation quality, before outlining the translation approach Eurofound applied in, and developed across, its various surveys. We next provide a detailed description of the transition from a back-translation-based approach to a modified version of TRAPD, and discuss the practicalities of implementing it for the ECS 2013. We conclude the paper with an assessment of the extent to which the approach was implemented efficiently and effectively, identifying those aspects of the approach and of the implementation process that were particularly conducive or obstructive in this regard, and providing some recommendations for future research.

2. Cross-cultural research and problems of equivalence

Cross-cultural research in the social domain has increased considerably over the last few decades as a consequence of the globalisation of the economy, the processes of regional integration, and the (related) needs for evidence and comparison between different cultural contexts. The methodological issues specific to cross-cultural research have been acknowledged and discussed extensively by researchers in numerous social research domains, but often theoretical and methodological reviews of cross-cultural management research take a rather pessimistic tone (Sekaran, 1983).

An important reason is the equivalence between research instruments that is required to reliably compare cultures or countries. Regardless of their topic of interest, researchers face the issue of whether their results can be reliably and meaningfully compared or are like 'apples and oranges' (Stegmueller, 2011). Most researchers are fully aware of this and acknowledge the existence of country heterogeneity in attitudes and preferences. Equivalence in cross-cultural research is therefore a major concern for numerous researchers, who consider it crucial to ensure reliability and meaningfulness of findings. To compare data from different nations, cultures or groups of populations, and to avoid mistaking methodological artefacts for real differences, researchers must ensure that the data and ultimately the results of analysis are equivalent. That is, any errors should occur in the same way in all spatial units (Baur, 2014), or, depending on the comparisons researchers are looking to make, across cultures or across groups. Applied to measurement error, this implies, for instance, that if a questionnaire item slightly overestimates a phenomenon in one country, and it is not possible to address this error, the item should result in the same overestimation in all countries, to allow for the comparison of the results across those countries.

A key aspect of cross-cultural equivalence is construct equivalence--which implies that a given concept or behaviour must have (approximately) the same meaning and function in all contexts and cultures under study to allow for comparison (Douglas & Craig, 2007; Hult et al., 2008; Singh, 1995). As Singh (1995) points out, construct equivalence is a notion rooted in the etic (i.e. universal) perspective that encompasses simultaneously two types of equivalence. On the one hand functional and conceptual equivalence, which refer to the extent to which a phenomenon serves the same function and is expressed similarly in different cultural contexts. …

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