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We provide survey translation services for clients implementing an online survey using a  variety of survey platforms that are on the market such as Qualtrics, SnapSurveys and SurveyGizmo.

The first thing that you should know – to save you time and costs –  is that your translation provider should be working into the source file of the survey that the platform is able to export out.

You do not want to receive a Word file for the survey translation project and then have to cut and paste it back into the survey platform. Your mantra should be to reduce any manual processes that may increase your chances of error and increase the programming time on your end.

Each different platform offers their own way that they provide a source file of the survey to be exported and a good translation provider will figure it out for you.  It’s not for you to figure it out for us. Expect your language service provider to find the efficiencies for you.

Each platform usually has a section of their instructional manual or website which shows how they do this and the export options that they have.  Let’s have a look from our perspective.

Survey Translation with different survey tools

Qualtrics Translate Options

The majority of the survey platforms on the market offer you an internal option. You can go into the platform and type the translation – NOT!  This eliminates the use of spell checks in other languages and eliminates the use of CAT tools that we use in survey translation with human translators to build a “memory” of the translation in order to have consistency, run QA checks on repetitive content, create an asset for you, etc.  These are productivity tools that professional translators use.

Here in Qualtrics, they offer you 2 options to export  for external survey translation.  One option is in Excel and the other option is in xml.  TIP: Provide the Excel option to your partner……their xml option has issues and will lead to manual processes and increased costs.

Code sample of Qualtrics survey system

For the xml option, we show in the image above, the text for translation within the elemenet <EN>. However, when this is processed in a CAT tool, the translation will replace the English in the current element where it is situated and in this case, that would be within the English element. The survey will display incorrectly.

The CAT tools that translation companies use will NOT see this element and drop it in the other element between the language codes <ZH-S></ZH-S>. It doesn’t work that way.  Translation survey platform developers would be wise to have a translation provider give feedback to them during their development stage.

If we worked with this file, we would have to manually cut and paste the language to be translated between the language elements where you want it to appear.  Manual processes such as this would increase your costs. We do have a few quicker workarounds for this very process but we’ll keep that to ourselves….can’t share all our process efficiencies.

There are also a few issues when uploading the language back into their platform.  Sometimes it doesn’t all go in and get populated.  We’ve had to re-import numerous times and be very detail oriented to see if something has not worked correctly.

Qualtrics recommendation on survey translation

Click to enlarge

2020 update:  Qualtrics now provides their recommendation for survey translation and which file to export



Let’s take a look at Snap Survey and see how their survey translation process words.  They export out in a .txt file.  We actually like Snap. I even like that they give the creator of the survey the option to “omit repetitive text” such as responses that might all be the same. But here’s the issue with that……

Snap survey translation export screenshot

I am assuming that if you as the creator omit the repetitive content, then it will be auto populated when it is translated. That guarantees you consistency and you might think that you are saving costs because you don’t have to pay for it to be translated 2 and 3 times but all repetitive text should be looked at in context because in some languages, this can change the translation of that very same repetitive text if the context it is used in is different from the first instance where it appeared so be careful with this one…..again, wish they had consulted with someone in our industry.  It’s the details….

Overall, we had a pretty good experience with Snap when we worked on the their survey translations for clients using this platform.  One issue that did come up though was the list of languages that were available for the user to take the survey in.  Most survey creators write a list of country names in their survey and keep it in alphabetical order. Of course, having it alphabetical makes it easy for the reader to find their country.

But what happens in translation?  First to answer this gets the prize!!!   Ding ding…you got it.  Once those country names are translated, they are no longer alphabetized and need to be reordered (Spanish example> United States = Estados Unidos). In the case with Snap Survey, they have a specific ID attached to each country name and they were not able to be reordered so participant in the online survey will end up seeing this all out of order. Such a shame…

One of the other things that we saw on their website, not in the survey we did, was that they show how easy it is to have a translated survey.

Snap survey translation sample



In this instance, it looks like the Q1, Q2, etc (Question 1, Question 2) elements are not part of the text for translation.  It should be!  It’s not the same in every language.

Lastly, we’ll take a look at SurveyGizmo. We recently had a client come to us with a survey on this platform and we have done some initial research.  First, the instructions they offer online are nice – even give the creator video which I like ….but oh, what’s that I see!

Survey Gizmo screenshot for Survey translation

That’s right…if you are the creator of your survey and you want to add bullet points, you have to do it manually in the survey translation! What is our mantra?  C’mon folks….”eliminate manual processes”..However, I was able to obtain a sample of their exported survey file in Excel from the client and I did see that there was some html formatting in that Excel file so not sure what is going on with that. And html coding within a line of text in an Excel file does not get filtered out in our CAT tools so yes, we find a way to deal with that too.

One real nice resource that Survey Gizmo does offer us translation providers are the tips for translation of their surveys. Nicely done!! You offer us the context, the meaning behind certain elements. Written in plain language and with visuals.  This is so important for translation …..writers need context. Translation is not a literal process! We have yet to go through the complete process with SurveyGizmo. We’re always excited to work within these platforms…..yes, we work within them too. Why you ask?

We work within the platform to perhaps fix the coding to increase a table size because the language expanded and the table was a fixed width and did not expand (thank you Qualtrics).  We work within the platform to upload the translated survey for clients (yes, we’ll take this final QA process on) and we always always do a final QA once the survey is staged so we and the translators can see the final format in context and review it again.

So when you are doing a survey and want to have it translated, give us a call or shoot us an email and we’ll be happy to take a look at the options that are available for the platform you are using.  We’ll spot the issues and give you a great end product when we’re finished.  Maybe one day, the platforms will work with our industry to have someone review these issues while the platform is in development or undergoing improvements. We’d be happy to do that.  Love process improvement….oh, don’t get us going on that.

Related services: Find out more about our website localization services here.  Translating in a content management system?