Capstan: Linguistic Quality Control

Certify

Certify

OUR ADDED VALUE: DOCUMENTATION

While the cApStAn seal of approval is not (yet) a formal certification, it goes a long way in endorsing your translation procedures, confirming equivalence to the source and/or appropriateness for a given target population. A translatability assessment validates the assumption that a source questionnaire is ready for translation into the intended target languages. We have a unique track record for documenting the entire translation and adaptation history of each item in each language. We organise formal international verification procedures in which adherence to guidelines is systematically checked and corrective action is proposed when deviations are identified.

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cApStAn Certify: case study

Objective

PISA follows a three-year cycle and assesses knowledge and skills in 15-year-old students worldwide. The results of this large-scale assessment are used to inform education policies, so cross-linguistic, cross-national and cross-cultural equivalence is not only an objective – it is a requirement. Since the inception of PISA, cApStAn has been commissioned to set up and implement linguistic quality control procedures that minimize meaning shifts—which are usually language-based—and perception shifts, which may be culture-based. Metrics are applied to report on compliance with PISA Translation and Adaptation Guidelines.

Methodology

All cApStAn verifiers attend face-to-face PISA verification workshops. These specially trained linguists then verify—segment by segment—national versions produced by the participating countries, and document each intervention they suggest. They use cApStAn’s framework of 14 verifier intervention categories to register their edits. National Centres review the verification feedback and decide whether to accept interventions, reject them (with a justification) or propose an alternative solution. The final check by cApStAn seeks to establish and document whether each issue requiring follow-up has been addressed in a satisfactory and consistent manner.

Results

The degree of sophistication in translation, adaptation and verification designs in PISA has led to frequent best practice citations: the item parameters are stable, and PISA results are deemed highly reliable and truly comparable across countries. This is, of course, due to factors such as standardized test administration procedures and robust conceptual frameworks, but also to a higher awareness of the need for linguistic quality assurance and equivalence checks. The amount of PISA data that needs to be discarded due to translation flaws, cultural bias or differential item functioning is extremely low, and we are proud to contribute to this endeavour.

Objective

For the fourth European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), Eurofound and cApStAn set up a translatability assessment of new items in the EQLS master questionnaire just before the translation process was due to begin; cApStAn was also asked to identify existing items that might pose translation problems, and to draft item-by-item translation and adaptation notes.

The objective was to identify all potential pitfalls translators were likely to face, to propose translation notes and, if needed, to suggest alternative wording that would circumvent the issue without loss of meaning.

Methodology

A team of 6 linguists representing 3 language groups (Dutch and Swedish for Germanic; French and Italian for Romance; Czech and Polish for Slavonic) went through the exercise of producing dummy translations of the draft Master Questionnaire. Each time the linguists encountered a translation difficulty, they mapped it to one of cApStAn’s translatability categories and described the issue (in English). This feedback was then analysed and collated by an in-house team of senior linguists led by Elica Krajčeva, who directed a special effort at generalizable and recurring issues.

Results

The resulting consolidated translatability report highlighted a number of ambiguous formulations; some potential cultural issues; a larger number of known issues with known workarounds; unnecessarily complex wording or syntax; and unintentional inconsistencies. A webinar was organised to scrutinise the report with both Eurofound and the contractor in charge of implementing the survey. The translation and adaptation notes became part of the augmented final source questionnaire sent to the translators.