In our previous post, we looked at the translation, localisation and adaptation process and the fact that it is very important to get all three steps right in order to ensure that your assessment will work in another country and for another culture.
So how are testing organisations coping with different sensibilities and cultures in addition to translation?
The first question to be asked would be whether you actually want to make adjustments for cultural adaptation and for the target audience. In some cases, with professional certifications, you may want people all over the world to take the same exam.
You may then just want to have the exam translated in order to ensure that non-native speakers are treated equally and are not hampered by a lack of knowledge of the exam language.
Should you actually translate at all? My response would be: what are you actually testing?
Apart from in actual language tests themselves, you are not testing people’s abilities in the English language – you are testing things like their professional knowledge or their skills and competencies, or their knowledge of the subject matter.
If we take English as the original language of the test, then people’s knowledge of English can vary tremendously and you can’t take it for granted that they have the right level of knowledge of the English language to be able to take the test in English.
Additionally, whilst they may have a good level of English, it will take them longer to read and understand the written text in English. Should you therefore make accommodations for this fact, because otherwise, they may not be able to finish the test in the same amount of time as a native English speaker?
For one of our clients in the certification sector, we translate their exams into Spanish. However, this client found that their candidates in Spanish were consistently getting lower grades than in English.
When candidates are presented with the exam, the papers not only contain the Spanish text, which is around 30% longer than the original English, but these papers also contain the original English. This means that the candidates have so much more to read and understand than the candidates who are just sitting the paper in English.
In such cases it is vital that an accommodation be made to the timing, so that people have a fair chance of completing the exam.