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Optimising MR Surveys for Translation

By Katie Reed | October 6, 2022 | Blog Market Research Translation Tips

With 30 years of experience of translating for the market research industry, we have seen many changes and new developments, but the core tenets remain the same.


In this blog we aim to provide some tips and advice to help with the preparation of market research surveys for translation.

  • Preparing the document and content

Space and time

Space is an important consideration in the layout of your survey. Translations may be longer than the original text so allow plenty of extra room to take this expansion into account.

Review your translated survey once it has been completed to check any crucial formatting has been retained. An experienced translation agency will manage this for you.

If a translation is longer than the original, you may also need to factor in the extended time for respondents to read through the text. For example, French can be 12-15% longer than English in terms of the number of words, while German words are longer and contain more characters.

The shorter the better

Not only are shorter and more concise sentences easier to translate accurately, but they also help to avoid misinterpretations that could affect the consistency of your results. Obviously, a good translator will ask questions, but the more straight-forward and shorter your sentences, the less likely you are to confuse your translators!

Fonts and other pitfalls

Whether you’re fielding your survey in Word format or a software such as Confirmit, you’ll need to consider how languages behave in your software or programme of choice. Indian languages, for example, raise the question of fonts. Languages like Arabic and Hebrew, written from right-to-left, can also cause issues, particularly if they contain text such as brand names in English, a left-to-right language. We recommend checking your system can cope with these languages before you launch your survey.

  • Timing and choice of language


Planning translations for a market research study should take into consideration public holidays. Linguists in different countries may have national or regional holidays not observed where you are. If your translation is time-critical, it’s important to plan ahead to have the right translators available for the right countries.

Public holidays can also have an effect on survey respondents, so it’s important to consider how and when you want individuals to reply. If we look at the US, for example, reaching business respondents at the end of November is likely to be more difficult due to Thanksgiving than in other western countries such as the UK or France. If you have respondents in different locations, staggered launching of a survey may benefit your response rates.


Understanding which languages will reach your target audience is key. Some countries have a huge number of languages spoken within them and knowing which languages are most appropriate for your target audience takes experience. India, for example, has 30 languages spoken by over 1 million native speakers with another 122 languages each spoken by over 10,000 people.

Also bear in mind that using an official language for a country is not necessarily essential for fielding your survey. If only a small percentage of the population regularly use that language, you might be able to reach a larger number of people with another language.


Localisation of survey content is a crucial part of any market research translation project, including:

  • Appropriate spelling and word choice (e.g. ‘colour’ in the UK versus ‘color’ in the US, ‘holiday’ in the UK versus ‘vacation’ in the US)

  • Culturally-sensitive questions (e.g. relating to an individual’s religion, ethnicity, income or age) – note: in some countries it may not be appropriate to ask about religion or ethnicity

  • Relevant list items (e.g. a list of newspapers or TV channels available in a particular country)

  • Cultural attitudes (e.g. views on and acceptance of alcohol)

Localisation of market research material also takes cultural differences into account. What is appropriate for one audience may not necessarily be suitable for another. Different audiences within a single country with a single language may still not mean you’re speaking to one culture.

Localising your survey content acknowledges the cultural differences of your target audience, making it possible for them to complete it on an equal footing. By ensuring your respondents understand and relate to your questions, your data will be consistent across different markets, enabling you to draw valid conclusions from your research.

To achieve these results, it’s important to use the right linguist with appropriate cultural knowledge and experience. They can help you to represent your organisation and brand with your target audience in a way that resonates with them.

We can help

The Language Factory has over 30 years of experience providing high-quality, specialist translation services delivered by mother-tongue linguists across a range of sectors, from market research to healthcare, marketing to travel and HR. Our combination of a global network of experienced specialist translators, market-leading technology and expert Project Managers, ensures you receive flawless translations and a seamless end-to-end service.

Contact us to find out more.

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