To develop a high-quality survey that is tailored to the country, follow these four steps:

  • Step #1: Develop an offline Core Questionnaire in the survey’s primary language.
  • Step #2: Translate the Core Questionnaire into other languages.
  • Step #3: For voice surveys, create audio recordings in all languages.
  • Step #4: Load the content (SMS text, Voice audio files) in the online tool.

This guideline enumerates the steps for Step #2: Translate the Core Questionnaire. In this step, you will translate the Core Questionnaire into the survey languages. The translated questionnaire is then audio recorded (for voice surveys) and loaded into the online tool.

Do use the same translated text when the English text is the same.

If a word is used throughout the questionnaire (e.g., “text” or “press”), use the same word throughout the questionnaire for each mode.

One exception: If there are auditory or visual differences for certain words in a language, use the wording that would be most appropriate. If differences are necessary, make a note of the difference and the reason for it.

Do translate the text exactly as written in English.

Translations need to be consistent with English text, including punctuation and capitalizing letters at the beginning of sentences.

Do provide translators instructions about splitting SMS messages.

Sometimes, languages will be longer than the primary language. Occasionally, this may lead to a situation where the primary language is one SMS (160 characters or less), but the translated language is more than one SMS (161 or more characters). In these situations, tell translators to:

  • Try to condense text as much as possible
  • Maximum 3 messages – 160 characters
  • If splitting is needed, split at intuitive places

If you use multiple messages, indicate # - e.g., 1/2, 2/2. See the Core Questionnaire article for more tips about writing multiple messages. If the text has special characters in it, such as apostrophes, the character limit may be reduced to 70.

Do not produce overly literal translations of the primary language.

Remember that translations are intended to reproduce the same MEANING of the question. Sometimes, it is necessary to use slightly different sentence structures or words to sound natural. The most important things are for the translations to sound correct in the translated language, and that the meaning is the same as the primary language.

Do not forget to add punctuation.

Remember to add commas, slashes, periods, dashes or other punctuation marks used in the primary language text, as appropriate.

Do not use overly formal language when translating.

Remember to use simple, everyday language that people can understand. Avoid using overly formal words or phrases. The translation should be conversational and simple – not too official sounding.

Do not translate any programming instructions.

The Core Questionnaire may have programming instructions (e.g., “IF 3, END SURVEY”). Do not translate these programming instructions, which are often listed in capital letters or in brackets.