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Evaluating Multilingual Questionnaires: A Sociolinguistic Perspective

Yuling Pan and Marissa Fond


survey translation, translation evaluation, functional equivalence, sociolinguistics, multilingual questionnaire, measurement errors


This study aims to develop an assessment tool to evaluate multilingual questionnaires by categorizing the types of translation issues that can lead to measurement errors in cross-cultural surveys. Based on the results of two multilingual projects that cognitively pretested the 2010 U.S. Census questionnaire in five languages and the American Community Survey questionnaire in two languages, we developed a coding scheme guided by sociolinguistic approaches to language and culture to evaluate translated questionnaires by classifying translation issues in terms of Linguistic Rules, Cultural Norms, and Social Practices. In this paper we discuss how the coding scheme is useful in the evaluation of multilingual questionnaires and how it could be integrated productively into the development of such questionnaires and the early rounds of translation. We also suggest feasible solutions to translation issues, to ensure translation quality and achieve not only semantic but functional equivalence across translations.


Yuling Pan and Marissa Fond. (2011). Evaluating Multilingual Questionnaires: A Sociolinguistic Perspective. Research and Methodology Directorate, Center for Survey Measurement Study Series (Survey Methodology #2012-04). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Research and Methodology Directorate, Center for Survey Measurement

Published online: December 27, 2011
Last revised: December 27, 2011


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Research and Methodology Directorate | Center for Survey Measurement | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: September 11, 2013