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3 steps to prepare an (online) survey in several languages

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Conceiving an (online) survey requires to pick up the right questions and framing them in the right design. Doing an (online) survey in one language is already a challenge. What should you do if you plan to launch a survey in different languages ? Today’s article is about just that.
If you’d like to carry out a multi-language online survey (satisfaction survey or any other type of market research), don’t hesitate to contact us.

1. Prepare your online survey in the first language

The first step is obviously to prepare your survey in the first language.
Designing your survey the right way is obviously a topic in itself. We advise you have a look at our previous articles on the matter :

Design your survey following the above principles in the main language first, i.e. the language of the majority of your respondents.
Imagine you carry out an online survey in the US, your main language will obviously be English and your second language may be Spanish.
This becomes trickier when conducting an online survey in a country where different languages are spoken. Take the example of Belgium for instance. If you do market research there, make sure you design your questionnaire in Dutch (60% of the population) first, then in French.

2. Test your (online) survey

You don’t want your online survey to fail, do you? Test it first then !
There are two ways to test your survey before launching it :

Ask external people to read the survey and give a feedback

First of all you should ask several persons to read your survey and you should sit next to each of them to observe their reactions and collect their feedback. If they don’t understand what they rea you’ll see it on their face. If they don’t understand something or are unsure about how to interprete a question, you should ask them to tell you.
At this stage you’ll have detected most of the flaws and will be able to rewrite your questions.

test your online survey on a small sample

The second thing you want to do is to test your survey on a smaller sample first. Studying inconsistencies between complementary questions or high standard deviations might reveal some design problems.

3. Translate your (online) survey the right way

Once the design of your survey is final, it’s time to translate it. Getting it done right requires that translation and back translation be carried out to ensure consistency between the different language versions of the survey.
This is how it works :

  • translate from your main language to the secondary language (for instance from English to Spanish)
  • translate back from Spanish to English
  • compare the two versions and look for discrepancies
  • fix the discrepancies in the translation and translate back once again to ensure that everything is fine

Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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