Put the Medal to the Pedal

Speed & quality go hand-in-hand when conducting global research

By: Bob McNabb, Director of Business Development | Protranslating

When conducting research, speed is crucial to success. To gather actionable insights from your data, you need to be able to understand and analyze responses before the information is out of date. If you wait too long, any insights gleaned would be irrelevant. When you have a global project, things can get complicated, and panic can start to set in.

How do I balance this tiny budget and timeframe against the need for accuracy? Do I need to cut corners on quality control steps to meet my deadline? If I cut corners on quality, what is the likelihood the data I collect is accurate? At that point, I may spend more time and money correcting and re-surveying.

Everyone’s considered this dilemma. Before letting yourself fall too far into that rabbit hole, look below for a few ways to help you stay on budget, on time, and walk away with actionable insights from good-quality, global data.

Linguists & Coders with the Right Know-How
When selecting a linguist for any given project, make sure that they have the cultural and linguistic know-how to avoid biasing the survey or responses, but technology know-how as well. Whether you are using data collection platforms such as, Qualtrics, Confirmit, Medallia, InMoment, or something similar, or various file formats like XML, programming script within Excel, or some combination, the linguist should have a strong working knowledge of how to navigate the programming text without disrupting the code and causing errors.

Determining whether to code directly in-language or first translating the responses then coding in English, has significant effect on cost and timing. Project or research objectives typically drive the decision, but an experienced coder can guide you through the nuances. When appropriate, you can save time and money by coding directly in-language. In addition, poorly written open-ended questions may not provide the correct data. Allow your coders to assess the questions before data collection so they can help you fine-tune your survey and capture insights. It is just like the saying – “garbage in, garbage out.”

Translation Memory & CAT Tools
Technology is always changing and improving our lives. Within the language industry, it does just that: Translation Memory and CAT tools help speed up the translation process by maintaining consistency. When utilizing these technologies, the translator is able to manage an entire translation in one place (CAT tool). If there is repetition, the system auto-populates the translator’s previous words, leaving them to simply approve the input, and making the process move much faster. This is important for pre- and post-comparisons, say you’re gauging brand awareness, you don’t want to see a change in data because a question was translated differently from one point in time to another.

Machine Translation with Human Editing
Machine Translation is great for speeding up the translation process of open-ended responses. Given this, it only becomes beneficial if you have a large volume of open-ended responses. That said, there are always two sides to the coin. When respondents have the freedom to use their own words, it’s important to include a human element to review the machine’s work, ensuring it accounts for all cultural nuances.

Global Project Management Teams
It is crucial to have ’round-the-clock service no matter where you are located. For example, there is a 12-hour time difference between Miami and Beijing. If a change is requested by someone in Miami in the middle of their workday, their colleagues in Beijing won’t see that request until the next morning when they get into the office. This could cost you an entire days’ worth of translation work. Balance your project managers around the sun and you’ll save days. If you take these factors into consideration before you begin this process, you will save time, money, and headaches in the long run. If you’re not managing the translations yourself, be sure to ask your language service provider whether they are utilizing these techniques before getting started.

About the Author: Bob is a consummate market research professional with a career spanning 23 years, including data programming and analysis, report development, project management, and consultation to Fortune 100 conglomerates. The types of research he has conducted includes, new product development, optimization, and reformulation, branding, ATU, and much more. Over the last 5 years, Bob has been assisting market research suppliers and clients providing top-notch translation and customer service and is currently working with Protranslating. Bob was a pitcher in high school and had a brush with the Hall of Fame, though he didn’t know it at the time. In a legion baseball game in 1986, he threw two pitches to eventual Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. Of course, the second pitch landed over the left-center field fence for a home run. Better luck next time.

Don’t Lead the Witness in Any Language

Keep Biased Opinions from Skewing Your International Survey Data

A common perception in survey writing is that the more languages the survey is required to be translated into, the more opportunity there is for human bias. In more cases than not, this is found to be true.

Think about the time it takes for an author to write a survey in English. First, they must understand what the survey is trying to learn and the audience it is trying to learn from. Is the audience well educated on the subject matter? Are there environmental considerations that could affect their feelings toward a topic? Only after considering these things can the author even begin to think of the number, flow, and specificity of questions. This process is extremely time consuming, and for good reason — you want good results. Now think about how long it would take to translate something that has been so thoughtfully written into yet another language, within a completely different culture.

If you consider these two simple things before translating your survey, you’ll not only reduce the opportunity for bias, you’ll also reduce the number of headaches you would have undoubtedly suffered throughout the process.

1. Does your linguist have a strong understanding of both languages and both cultures?

It’s one thing to firmly grasp two languages. It’s a completely different thing to understand two different cultures. Consider, for example, how common it is to include questions about income in surveys. The U.S. generally measures income annually. In Germany, however, the cultural norm is to measure income monthly. A question as simple as, “What is your household income?” could be translated accurately, but the responses could completely miss the mark. This would lead to errors, and ultimately the need to re-survey. You want a linguist who will not only translate your questions accurately, but be sure to note cultural nuances such as these, keeping you on-time and within budget. The best linguists are those who have spent substantial time living in each audience’s country.

2. Are you utilizing technology at the correct times?

Given the previous example, you might not think there is ever a good time to use technology in survey translations, but that’s simply not true. You can benefit from the speed and savings afforded by technology, while simultaneously avoiding bias, if it is used at the right time. Let’s say you need to measure brand awareness over time. To truly understand if brand perception is improving or declining, you need to have consistency in questions. Translation memory tools can memorize key terms and phrases. If human translators are put to the task, their translations may vary slightly depending on many factors, whereas a translation memory tool would not.

If you take these factors into consideration before you begin, you will save yourself time, money, and headaches in the long run. If you’re not managing the translations yourself, be sure to ask your language service provider how they would handle these two issues when translating surveys before getting started.

Why Service Matters