Translation Methodology

It is essential for providers who are conducting assessments for clinical or research purposes to utilize instruments which have undergone a vigorous translation and are truly adapted and tested for the Spanish language with the target population (Erkut, Alarcon, Garcia-Coll, Tropp & Vasquez Garcia, 1999). This important process is to ensure psychometric equivalencies and cultural constructs, and although it is time intensive, the data obtained can yield more valid and reliable outcomes to learn about cross-cultural influences in health behaviors.

Optimally, instruments should be developed simultaneously in English and Spanish which has been described as the “decentering technique” (Marin & Marin, 1991). This technique allows for the use of meaningful constructs for that culture versus using the translated constructs previously developed. Other translation methods are outlined below:

  • One-Way Translation: A bilingual individual translates the original version into the target language version. This direct translation method has been deemed the most unreliable method because it is dependent on the knowledge of the individual translator, yet it is the most widely used method (Erkut et. al., 1999).
  • Translation by Committee: Two or more bilingual individuals translate the text or instrument from the original language to the translated version. The committee by consensus can produce a final translated version or allow an independent observer to select the most appropriate version. Drawbacks to this method are that committee members can have the same world view or have similar backgrounds thus producing the translated instrument skewed one way (Marin & Marin, 1991).
  • Back-Translation Method: Two independent translators are involved in this preferred method. Translator one translates the original version into the target language then the second translator translates it back into the original language. The researcher can consult with the translators to determine discrepancies. Limitations to this method are:
    1. That the translators may have the same world view, developing similar versions, or
    2. That if experienced translators are used, they may make inferences as to what the other meant resulting in a poorly developed instrument (Marin & Marin, 1991).