Basic Guidelines for Translating Surveys

  • Translator(s) is briefed on socio-demographic characteristics of target population, mode of administration of the survey instrument, and where the survey will be administered;
  • Provide translator with specific instructions about the reading level he/she should be aiming for in the translation and whether he/she should use language that is going to be widely understood by a variety of speakers of the target language or whether the translation should reflect language usage by speakers from a particular region or country;
  • Translator(s) reviews original language survey instrument before translation to identify items, terms or concepts that are difficult to translate;
  • Translator(s) meets with survey user to discuss problem items, terms or concepts and to obtain additional clarification or information on goal or intent of the English language item, term or concept;
  • Translation into target-language by a professional translator who is a native speaker of the target language (preferably a certified translator);
  • Back-translation from target-language into English by professional or certified translators;
  • Review of translation by bilingual reviewers (or other professional translators);
  • Review of original English-language instrument and back-translation;
  • Resolve discrepancies or problems in the translation by a committee that includes the translator, back-translator and reviewers (this may require one or more phone or in-person meetings).

During the translation process, translators may identify terms or concepts that are difficult to translate because they do not have the same or similar meaning in the target language as they do in English. This will lead to discussions about the goal or intent of the English-language item. Such discussions are integral to the production of a quality translation. However, these discussions do not take the place of any qualitative or quantitative research to assess the cultural appropriateness of the survey's concepts or domains, or to assess the performance of the instrument when fielded.

Although RAND cannot validate the translation, you may cite that in producing the translation you “followed the specifications provided by RAND Health.”

We are interested in keeping track of any translations of RAND surveys. Please send a copy of the translation when you complete it and a description of the translation process that was used to Ingrid Maples at RAND_Health@rand.org.