For Social & Public Opinion Research: Wording Matters

Under Blog | Posted by Richard Ochab

As a provider of translation services, we always stress the merits of accuracy when localizing content from one language to another when reaching multilingual audiences.  The success and reputation of our company depends on it. One particular area where proper wording is especially important is social and public opinion research.

When it comes to generating opinion polling on national and international topics, the wording of questions can dramatically influence the responses and end results.  For instance, the topics of initial questions may influence responses on the questions that follow.  In addition, common survey method errors may also impact the results.  One example is the forbid-allow asymmetry, which finds that  even though “forbid” and “allow” are seemingly counterparts, they often elicit different responses.

It is equally important to ensure that the survey instrument issocial and public opinion research translated accurately when reaching multilingual respondents.  This includes ensuring that all translations maintain the intended phrasing and meaning of the questions. In many cases, experienced, native-speaking translators that have professional experience in social and public opinion research are required.

Similarly, the translated text needs to be localized to match the needed regional audience.  The correct (or incorrect) localized language can influence the results, or, at a minimum, elicit different feelings with the respondents.

Take French.  There is French (Canada), French (France), French (Luxembourg) and French (Switzerland), as well as different French dialects for several African countries. While there may not be large differences in each, some respondents may be put off by the incorrect use of their language, which could cause them to take the survey less seriously, lose interest, or impact the results.

Other languages follow suit, including Arabic (which has many localized dialects), Chinese, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and others. Even English can be localized into more than 10 different dialects, including Australia, Canada, several Caribbean countries, India, multiple African countries, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States.

CETRA specializes in providing translation services for the social and public opinion research industry, and staff are members of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).

Our experience has taught us that when it comes to social and public opinion research: wording matters.

If you would like more information on our services for the social and public opinion research industry, please contact Andrew Moszkowicz.

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