TSI Blog

What’s in a word?

August 20th, 2015 by Ralph Sutcliffe

TranslationWe are often asked to provide surveys in languages other than English for our international clients, for which we turn to our team of experienced mother tongue translators.

Accurate translations are absolutely vital and very easy to get wrong – I once heard a story about the word ‘staff’ being translated as ‘wooden stave’ throughout a staff survey. And one when a translation of ‘submit’ was required for an online survey button – the proposed word apparently would have suited Fifty Shades of Grey better than an employee engagement survey!

An example of getting it wrong comes from a local authority in South Wales where all official signs are required to be bilingual. The Council had received complaints about lorry drivers taking a short cut through a residential area to make deliveries to a supermarket. Wanting to put a stop to this a decision was taken to install a sign saying “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”. The in-house translation service was sent an email asking them to provide the wording in Welsh, a reply was received and the sign (above) was manufactured using the text and put in place.
They soon started getting calls from Welsh speakers reporting that the sign informed “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”.

The point of all this is that we spend a great deal of time ensuring that the wording of our questions is precise, that the meaning is clear and unambiguous, that exactly the right words and tone are used. We therefore believe that it is essential that a great deal of care is taken by translators who should be

•             based locally within the respective country
•             mother-tongue translators
•             have excellent English skills
•             have business/ commercial experience

The Survey Initiative team are experts in the field of employee research. If you would like to know more about how we can help your organisation with employee engagement, or to hear about our translation service then call us on +44 (0)1255 850051 or visit our website.

Written by Ralph Sutcliffe
Ralph Sutcliffe looks after Business and Project Development 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. Ralph has been in the market research and survey software sector for over 30 years. His projects and clients have been many and varied during that time, ranging from supporting independent consultants to managing multi-language international surveys for GlaxoSmithKline, as well as helping the BBC and even MI5. Visit http://www.surveyinitiative.co.uk for more information.

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