How Does the French Culture Impact the Translation of Survey Materials? – An Examination of French Translations for a U.S. Survey
Saleska, E. L., Kanya-Ngambi, M., & Alvarado, H. (2009, May). How Does the French Culture Impact the Translation of Survey Materials? - An Examination of French Translations for a U.S. Survey. Presented at AAPOR 2009, .
Based on 2007 American Community Survey (ACS) figures, approximately 1.3 million Americans, aged 5 and over, speak French in their household, and almost 300,000 of those Americans self-report that they do not speak English “very well.” To ensure that French speaking populations are represented in the federally mandated American Community Survey, the Census Bureau translated ACS survey materials to be used with French speakers selected for this study. This paper explores the need to account for language and cultural differences when developing French survey materials, including differences within the French speaking population itself for native speakers from different cultural and geographic backgrounds. These variations prove to be important as the understanding of the survey materials translation can sometimes differ depending on the extent of the speaker’s English comprehension and native birth place.
This paper examines the findings from cognitive interviews that were conducted to test the French materials. Through these cognitive interviews, we hoped to learn if the French translations were accurate and appropriate for the target language and culture, if respondents were able to understand the intended messages of the survey materials, and if there were any specific concepts that were difficult to translate into French. The accuracy of each intended survey message and any identified solutions to problems with the translation are examined. Differences between native French speakers who have some knowledge of English and native French speakers who do not have any English competency are highlighted. This paper will also investigate potential differences between native French speakers from different geographic regions, including Africa, Europe, and North America. Finally, this paper will explore some of the potential challenges researchers should be aware of for future projects involving translated materials in French.