Using Cognitive Interviews to Evaluate the Spanish-Language Translation of Dietary Questionnaire

Kerry Levin, Gordon B. Willis, Barbara H. Forsyth, Alicia Norberg, Martha Stapleton Kudela, Debra Stark, Frances E. Thompson


We present results from a qualitative evaluation of the Spanish-language version of a dietary intake questionnaire and characterize the types of findings which emerged from several rounds of cognitive testing. Cognitive interviews were used to test the Spanish translation of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Cancer Control Supplement dietary questions, with 36 Spanish-speaking and 9 English-speaking participants. Analyses of the results identified (a) translation issues, (b) culture-specific issues, and (c) general design issues that affected both English and Spanish speakers. Results indicated that general design-oriented difficulties were particularly frequent. Our findings suggest that when appropriately structured, cognitive interviews that feature flexible probing can be useful for identifying a range of problems in survey translations, even after translations have been developed using currently accepted methods. We make several recommendations concerning practices that may be optimal in the conduct of empirical cross-cultural questionnaire evaluations.


survey translation; translation evaluation; cognitive testing; dietary survey

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