TSI Blog

Multi-lingual employee surveys

April 4th, 2011 by Gary Cattermole

We are currently working with a client to deliver their first, worldwide employee survey, specifically looking at employee engagement.

One of the most interesting aspects is that this survey will be delivered in nine languages.  These include French and German, through to Russian (strict), Brazilian Portuguese and also Japanese and Korean.

Translating into different languages is never easy (see some of the most wonderful examples of translated product names or slogans!) and with an employee survey it can be even more complex.  It is vital that the meaning of questions are not ‘lost in translation’, it is not uncommon to find that certain words we take for granted (in terms of their meaning) are not able to be translated as no word exists in the language you are trying to translate too.

We use a three-stage process to ensure that the translation is as smooth as possible and thought we would share our process:

  1. Once the questionnaire has been signed off by our client, the English version of the questionnaire is sent to a professional translation house.  Native-speaking translators work on translating the survey (and any associated text) into each respective language.  The translations are then double-checked for accuracy;
  2. Our client then receives the translated versions – we advise that each language (and the English version for comparison) is sent a trusted employee who speaks the language natively and who has good English skills.  They check the quality of the translation, ensuring that the meaning of each item and any text hasn’t been lost during the translation process.  Finally, they ensure any corporate language has also been translated correctly.
  3. Finally, a pilot test with a small group of employees representing each language is conducted to ensure nothing has been missed and that the survey can be understood and completed without any problems.

So, don’t make the mistakes some of the worlds largest companies have when undertaking translation.  Ensure your employee survey is translated problem free!

Written by Gary Cattermole
Gary Cattermole is a Director at The Survey Initiative, a dedicated employee research organisation devoted to helping its clients gain insight and understanding into what drives employee engagement in their business. Gary has extensive expertise and experience in a range of employee research techniques from employees surveys and 360 degree feedback to workshop facilitation and action planning sessions, working with a diverse range of clients such as EPSON, Telegraph Media Group, Natural History Museum, AVEVA and Accor. Gary is an avid sports fan, in particular table tennis and football. Visit http://www.surveyinitiative.co.uk for more information.

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