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Avoid market research translation mistakes

By Hilary Picken | January 10, 2019 | Translation Tips

marketing translation mistakes

We’re often asked to proofread translations done by other agencies or translators and have noticed there are some traps translators fall into when translating for the market research industry. In this blog we provide some advice on how to avoid making such errors.

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. Rating responses on a sliding scale (e.g. choose 5 for strongly agree and 0 for strongly disagree) have been known to get confused and end up the wrong way round (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 for their terminology as well as your own 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.