When working on global market research studies, market research companies need to deliver accurate, high-quality data for their end clients, so that they can make informed business decisions.
However, when market researchers are faced with a market, who, although may speak English, may not fully understand the requirements of the research if English is not their first language, clearly a language specialist needs to become involved. But this is not necessarily a straightforward process. Even when a language service provider has been engaged, there are still pitfalls.
This week, Mission Translate looks at the critical role that language service providers play in delivering high-quality, accurate research data and what processes need to be in place to ensure their role is being completed effectively.
The importance of gaining the right data
Whether data collection involves written questionnaires, face-to-face focus groups or in-depth telephone interviews, for market research to be carried out effectively, the right questions need to be asked, in the right way, to ensure full comprehension from the respondent. Equally, a complete understanding of their responses also needs to be gained. Without this understanding on both sides, the data will be inaccurate, conclusions drawn will be invalid and the risk of making incorrect, costly decisions is high. When data, from questions and responses, needs to cross a language barrier, the potential for misunderstanding increases.
For example, a famously mistranslated tagline for Pepsi has gone down in marketing lore. The initial campaign was “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation”. However, it has been reported that the subtle change to “Come alive with Pepsi!” led to the misinterpretation in China that this was suggesting the drink brought back ancestors from the grave! There have been various claims on how this was translated to the Chinese market, including:
- Come alive out of the grave with Pepsi.
- Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.
- Bring dead ancestors back from heaven.
This example firstly demonstrates how a subtle change in a phrase can have quite disastrous effects when translated and secondly questions how there was not local research carried out to pick up this pitfall before the campaign went live. It is reported that sales in China took a dramatic downturn following the campaign, but with no confirmed data from Pepsi, the real effect is actually unknown.
How to get the best from your language service provider
When engaging with language services, a number of precautions should be taken to ensure the data collected is transferred accurately and a similar situation does not occur.
Below we share the things that should be considered:
- When working with a language specialist; translator, transcriber or interpreter, it is vital that the linguist specialises in working within that industry sector. For example, consider a medical translator. Some of the terms involved when researching a new drug or procedure are so specific that without specialist knowledge, it is unlikely that the linguist with be able translate these terms with complete accuracy.
- Native translators should always be used. Again, to ensure accuracy of terms, and also localisation of phrases and idioms, the translator should always work into their native language.
- Does your language service provider offer a proofreading service as part of the translation project? This is a necessary safeguard; checking for errors and ensuring the best quality work has been completed.
- Have clear timelines been established? Many market research projects work to strict deadlines. When language assistance is required, enough time needs to be built into the project to ensure these are met.
- Many global market research projects collect data via interviews, which are recorded and then passed onto a linguist to transcribe and translate. When engaging with a linguist in this way, as above, they need to be native in the language and a sector-specialist to ensure the highest quality work is provided. They should also be experienced transcribers. Transcribing is quite a skill and being able to capture all audio accurately is more difficult than most people would expect. By working with experienced transcribers, you can be reassured that everything that can be heard, will be heard.
These are just a few of the considerations that global market research companies need to make when engaging with language service providers. Working with a good quality language service provider will ensure the successful delivery of the data analysis and a happy end client.
For more information on how language service providers can collaborate with market research companies to produce successful global research, check out our full whitepaper here.
By Lorna Paice