As social science researchers, we have to routinely work across language barriers with our respondents.
It is highly likely that the native language of a researcher (Urdu in my case) may be different from the respondents’. Great care is taken to simplify questionnaires so that they can be translated into the local language with minimal difficulty. The hiring of translators is also considered to be a high priority task in the research process and their proficiency in the local language is a deciding factor. Effective translation can play an important role in mitigating the language barrier between a researcher and a respondent. For this to happen, a translator should be well trained in the research process. Some people might argue that it is not necessary to train translators, and that their job is to simply ‘translate.’ But well trained translators not only understand the value of questions in the overall research process, they also experiment with different ways to get the respondent to understand the questions. The ownership and motivation of translators arise only when they are fully immersed into the research process. In my own involvement in the design and translation of an anthropometric training for a LANSA study on women’s work and nutrition in Sindh, I leveraged on my understanding of the study while translating some key concepts to the participants.