Market research translation – avoiding mistakes

We’re often asked to proofread translations done by other agencies or translators and have noticed there are some traps translators can fall into when translating for the market research industry. In this blog post we’ll explore some common market research translation mistakes that are critical to avoid if you want to achieve accurate fielding results. We’ll be discussing some potential pitfalls and how to avoid making these mistakes.

Language choice

There are a huge number of languages across the world and choosing which one of these is best for your audience isn’t always easy. Even in countries with several official languages, choosing one or more of those to field in doesn’t necessarily guarantee you are covering the whole population. Equally choosing a language that is spoken in multiple countries does not guarantee it can be used in all of them without any adaptation. French, for example, is spoken in various countries including France, Canada and Belgium. Depending on your target market, you may need to have several versions to ensure you are “speaking their language.” A responsible translation provider will advise when you need multiple versions or when a singular translation is enough.

Sliding scales

This is an obvious mistake but one that seems to occur if not managed correctly. When translating a sliding scale (e.g. choose 5 for strongly agree and 0 for strongly disagree), translators have been known to get confused and reverse them (where results for strongly agree are now strongly disagree). This is even more likely in German surveys; whereas in English, it is generally the case that the higher the number, the more positive the answer, the reverse is true in German. This can be very damaging to research results and will affect study accuracy. It is always a good idea to double-check the translation of these scales to make sure they’ve not been overlooked.


It’s not enough to know the terminology of the subject of your survey, such as mobile phones or airlines. You also need your translators to be familiar and up to speed with market research phraseology. You may not elicit the right responses if your translator knows the right word for the latest piece of technology but not the right way of phrasing the question, and vice versa. To get the best results, make sure you are working with someone conversant with your client’s industry terminology as well as your own market research phraseology.

Response options

When providing a document for a specific country or culture, the response options need to be tailored for that audience. Providing options that are not relevant will mean you’re not getting the most from your research. The best thing to do here is localise your content. Localisation will ensure options are appropriate for the target audience.

Though frequent, many of these potential issues can be easily avoided. Any translator worth their salt will be able to offer advice or translate in such a way as to provide you with good, accurate translations which in turn will guarantee you good, consistent results across all markets, irrespective of the language they speak.

Market research translations at The Language Factory

At The Language Factory we only ever work with mother-tongue translators who are qualified and have at least five years’ experience in their chosen specialism, among other important criteria. Having served the market research industry for 25+ years, The Language Factory only entrusts its clients’ projects to translators and Project Managers who are experienced at looking out for potential sticking points, such as those we’ve discussed and more. Not only that, but they know the right questions to ask to get your project turned around as efficiently and accurately as possible. Get in touch today to discuss how we can help you on your next project. Call us on +44 1727 862722 or send us your project details using the form below.


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