International certifications: To translate or not to translate?

Sue Orchard

Posted by Joan Phaup

Scoring techniques, test delivery options, item generation and the intricacies of translating tests into different languages were among the many subjects covered during the Association of Test Publishers’ Innovations in Testing Conference last month.

Curious to know in particular about issues relating to test translation and localization, I spoke briefly with  Sue Orchard of Comms Multilingual about her perspective on the conference:

Were there any particular themes that emerged about translation and localization?

More and more organizations in North America are looking at taking their certifications international. One of the main themes is whether these certifications and any related training and marketing materials need to be translated or not. Some organizations have decided to leave their materials in English. My response to that would be: Are you testing people’s knowledge, skills and abilities or are you testing their knowledge of the English language?

What are the key elements that make for a high-quality translation?

Preparation is absolutely key in ensuring a successful outcome. When creating exams, tests and assessments in the first place, it is important to write these with translation in mind. You should avoid jargon, complicated sentences, overcrowding of the text on a page and many other things. If the exams, tests and assessments have not been created with translation in mind, then this can cause problems during a translation project.

What do you look for in validating a translation?

It is very important to follow specific process steps to ensure the validation of a translation. The actual steps to be taken will vary from client to client, depending on their own capabilities, such as the availability of native-speaker Subject Matter Experts. When translating, localizing and adapting exams, tests and assessments, the steps to be taken will require much more work than for the translation of training or marketing materials, which just require translation into the language and proof-reading.

Going forward, what do you see as the key issues organization will face as they continue to expand their international and intercultural testing programs?

There are many issues that need to be considered by organizations that are looking to expand internationally. Should the exams, tests and assessments be left in English or translated? What about related materials such as training or marketing materials?

Should the certification remain exactly as it is in the original country, or should organizations attempt to get the certification licensed in the target market? Is the exam, test or other assessment culturally valid in the target country? Can it be localized and adapted or is it not suitable at all for people in other countries?

For more on this subject see the Q&A at the end of my previous post about Sue’s February 16 Questionmark web seminar on assessment translation and localization.

One Response to “International certifications: To translate or not to translate?”

  1. […] Phaup recently published a blog article — “International Certifications: To Translate or Not to Translate?” – in which she interviewed Sue Orchard of Comms Multilingual about the need to translate […]

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