This study aims to develop an assessment tool to evaluate multilingual questionnaires by categorizing the types of translation issues that can lead to measurement errors in cross-cultural surveys. Based on the results of two multilingual projects that cognitively pretested the 2010 U.S. Census questionnaire in five languages and the American Community Survey questionnaire in two languages, we developed a coding scheme guided by sociolinguistic approaches to language and culture to evaluate translated questionnaires by classifying translation issues. In this paper we discuss how the coding scheme is useful in the evaluation of multilingual questionnaires and how it could be integrated productively into the development of such questionnaires and the early rounds of translation. We also suggest feasible solutions to translation issues, to ensure translation quality and achieve not only semantic but functional equivalence across translations.
Keywords: survey translation
Yuling Pan, US Census Bureau
Principal Researcher and Senior Sociolinguist
Group Leader of Language and Measurement Research Group,
Center for Survey Measurement