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Lost in Translation

07 October



Recently we conducted a survey for the PR team of a start-up. Our surveys were conducted with an international audience across nine countries, and we had them translated into seven different languages.

The tone of the survey was lighthearted, meant to engage with an amusing subject matter.

Before sending the survey, in an abundance of caution, we double-checked the translations, one question in particular. We wanted to respect the fluidity of gender identification in our initial demographic screening, so we worded the gender question this way:

Are you:



Somewhere in between

But to our surprise, some of the translations that came back took great liberties with “Somewhere in between” translating it to “Other” or “Neither” – exactly the opposite of our intended wording.

Ultimately, out of nearly 2,000 respondents, .8% chose the third option. This information was valuable to our client as they learn how to create the best messaging for their diverse audience.

There’s value to services like SurveyMonkey’s standard question translations, but more often than not, a well-designed survey requires customization. The moral of the story? We always make sure to back-translate for nuanced phrasing and don’t assume our translators always “get” what we mean. We don’t want to end up on the wrong “Top” List!”

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