Issues in Translating Answer Scales (303601)*Alisu Schoua Glusberg, RSS
Keywords: answer scale, translation
This presentation will focus on the linguistic and cultural problems involved in the translation of answer scales from English into other languages. First, it will discuss cultural issues in responding to scales, such as politeness, social desirability, or avoidance of extreme responses. Next it will discuss linguistic issues, such as problems in maintaining scale polarity across languages, and the balance between fidelity to the source and avoiding awkwardness in the translation. Finally, the presentation will focus on a specific issue in scale translation: surveyspeak in scales and how to best treat it in translation.
Translations of scales often try to convey the surveyspeak present in English scales. The target population for many survey translations in the U.S. are immigrants with limited prior exposure to surveys. They often lack familiarity with the task of selecting a response from a series of options the interviewer offers. They tend to treat the survey as a conversation, in which they do not carry out naturally the fourth step of Tourangeau et al.'s (2000) survey response model: formatting the response. We often see a tendency to answer in their own words instead of using the categories offered. This has implications for translation: We propose the notion that while a question stem can be interpreted as intended even if it is formulated in words the respondent understands but would not necessarily use, selecting a response is easier if the scale labels are formulated in ways that are closer to the way a respondent would answer the same question if it were open ended.
We will report on an experiment to elicit scale labels in Spanish, a card sorting exercise to group the labels and order them by intensity, and will compare ease of responding with the more traditional translated surveyspeak labels and the new labels elicited from the target population.