Conducting your research

Information in other languages

Information leaflets can be translated into other languages.  Best practice is to translate and back-translate to ensure consistency of interpretation, and you should allow budget to do that in your study.  However, before you undertake translation, there are two key issues to consider:

(1)   Is written translation appropriate for your potential participants? 

If working with people who speak languages other than English, you need to consider language and  literacy, and also dialect or local languages. 

For example, many Bangladeshi communities in London speak Sylheti, not Bengali.  Sylheti does not have a written script, and Sylheti speakers may not read Bengali.  So it could be of little use, in research with a Sylheti community, to translate an information sheet into Bengali.  It might be more useful to provide a CD or DVD, which gives the study information verbally, and which participants can keep. 

(2)  Translated text at the end of an information sheet in English. 

Very often, information sheets written are in English, but include blocks of text at the end stating: ‘If you would like this information in Language X, please call...’.  This strategy popular because it is cheaper than full translation.  However, it is potentially problematic and needs some thought:

  • Who will answer the phone?  What will happen if the call comes through to an English speaking researcher who does not know enough of the community language to access appropriate interpreting? 
  • What will happen if the call is directed to someone with appropriate language skills outside the research team?  You will need to ensure they understand and follow your protocols in terms of (for example) freely given and fully informed consent and confidentiality.  See our section on working with research staff and subcontractors.    
  • Regardless of who deals with the telephone call, there is still a problem in that participants who speak other languages do not have accessible information that they can keep after contact with the researcher has ended.

If you know that written translation is appropriate, but you need to ensure information in a range of languages, then you should build budget for that into your project.  If that is not possible, it is worth asking to see if anyone can help you find additional funds to support translation.  For example, if your research will have potential benefits for a service or an organisation, they might be willing to make a small contribution to help ensure a representative sample.