Translation Protocol

The purpose of questionnaire translation is to produce instruments that maintain equivalence of measurement across languages/dialects, to achieve a functionally equivalent and culturally appropriate version of the original instrument. Only in this way will it be possible to achieve results that are comparable cross-nationally.

The Washington Group agreed to adopt the conceptual translation method when translating the WG tools. Since a key aspect of the WG endeavour has been to develop question sets and a process of implementing question use cross-nationally that yielded internationally comparable results, it is critical to maintain the concept of the questions rather than produce a direct translation of them.

An accurate translation that conveys the context or conceptual meaning (rather than a literal translation) of the WG Short Set is crucial. If a particular word does not translate, then try another one that captures the same content, e.g. if ‘step’ is not in the local vocabulary, perhaps ‘stair’ is a better choice. Avoid situations where bilingual enumerators translate the questions at the time of administering the survey, as it means that enumerators will be asking different questions.

The WG has collected translations of the questions in several languages. If a country has appropriately translated the Short Set for use in their national census, use this version. It is desirable for all programs in the country to use the same translation. The use of different translations by organisations within the same country will reduce comparability of data. To request translations, please email

Pooling resources and sharing the same translated versions would overcome this concern. A translation protocol exists which should be used in conjunction with cognitive testing. Do not change the wording of the questions unless cognitive testing highlights particular concerns with the current wording.

Washington Group member, Dr. Daniel Mont has also written a blog on the translation of the WG questions

We are currently in the process of collecting translations of the WG question sets. If you have any translations of any question sets in your local language please send them to



This page was updated on: Thursday, December 22, 2016