Survey Translation 101: A Guide for SaaS Companies

Survey Translation 101: A Guide for SaaS Companies cover

How can you translate a survey into a language that your users prefer?

That’s exactly the question our guide tackles.

It also looks at the most common challenges that you can come across, goes into detail about two approaches to survey translation (human and automatic), and shares a few translation best practices.

Finally, it shows how you can translate your surveys easily and automatically with Userpilot to collect user sentiment data.


  • Survey translation is the process of translating your survey questions to make them more accessible and inclusive for speakers of other languages.
  • It allows you to collect accurate user feedback from all your customers and gives you a more holistic view of their needs, preferences, and pain points.
  • Translating surveys into the native languages of your users also increases their satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Common challenges involved in translating surveys include a lack of equivalent terminology in the target language, differences between regional dialects, cultural nuances, and lack of consistency.
  • Hiring a professional translator to translate your survey questions will most likely deliver better quality but is more time-consuming and expensive.
  • Using localization tools to automate survey translation is a cheaper and quicker alternative but the quality, accuracy, and consistency may not be as high.
  • Before you launch the survey, check its formatting as some languages can change the UI.
  • Use the help of native speakers to ensure the linguistic and cultural appropriateness of your questions.
  • Pilot all the surveys with a small user cohort to iron out all the kinks before making it live for all users.
  • Userpilot allows you to translate your surveys into over 100 languages inside the app without the need to export and re-import them.
  • To see how to create, customize and translate surveys in Userpilot, book the demo!

What is survey translation?

It is the process of translating your survey questions from the original language into the languages your customers speak.

Apart from simply translating the questions word for word, it requires localizing them to reflect the local cultural norms and expectations.

Why is it important to translate survey questions?

If your target customers are native speakers of languages other than English, which is the case with most SaaS products, then translating your survey questions is essential.

Why so?

There are a few key reasons:

  • Translating survey questions increases inclusivity and allows you to collect user insights from the whole customer base. In this way, you can get a complete picture of customer sentiment. This can be essential to make informed product development and marketing decisions when targeting different markets.
  • The results are more likely to be accurate as your users will be able to understand questions more precisely and give more honest responses.
  • Survey translations boost customer satisfaction and loyalty because they show your multilingual user base your commitment to addressing their unique needs and pain points.
  • Translated market research surveys can help you capture the unfiltered voice of the customer. In other words, you can get samples of the language that users use in their native tongues to talk about your product. This is invaluable when developing support resources and marketing materials in those languages.

Common challenges when translating surveys

In-app surveys in SaaS products tend to be short so translating them may seem like an easy task. However, there are a few challenges that may throw a spanner in the works.

  • Lack of equivalent terminology – some expressions may not exist in the target languages so you will have to think of different ways of expressing what you mean to get the required information.
  • Regional dialects – speakers of the same language from the same country may understand it differently depending on the region they come from.
  • Cultural differences – some questions may be difficult to relate to or even taboo for users from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Consistency – lack of consistency in terminology and language style across the survey may lead to confusion and affect the reliability and validity of the survey data.

Survey translation process: professional translators or automated tools?

When translating a survey you have two possible choices. You can either hire a professional translator or use machine translation to do it automatically.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of both.

Using a professional translator to translate survey questions

Here are the key stages of the translation process when done by professional translators:

  1. Preparation – you create a CSV file of your questions and pass them to your translator.
  2. Forward translation – the translator translates it into the target language.
  3. Back translation – for quality assurance purposes, another translator translates the text back into the original language.
  4. Reconciliation – you compare the two versions to find the optimal translation.
  5. Implementation – you upload the CSV file with translated questions into your user sentiment tool.

What are the pros of using professional translators for the job?

  • Quality and accuracy – professional translators are generally capable of capturing and conveying the nuances of the questions.
  • Cultural adaptation – human translators are better at understanding the cultural context and adapting questions for the target audience.
  • Consistency – when provided with glossaries and style guides, trained linguists can deliver more consistent translations

What are the downsides?

  • Cost – hiring human translators is expensive, especially if you’re translating your questions into multiple languages.
  • Time – the process requires a lot of back-and-forth which makes it very time-consuming, especially if you use it to translate every single survey.
  • Hiring and management – finding the right people, hiring them, and coordinating their work requires considerable management effort.

Using a tool to translate surveys automatically

Using a software localization tool to translate your surveys is an appealing alternative to using human translators.

The process is much simpler:

  • You feed the text into the translator (with tools like Userpilot you don’t need to need to do that as the translation process happens inside the app).
  • The tool translates the survey questions automatically into the target language.
  • Optionally, the text can be edited by a human to ensure adequate quality.

Here are the key benefits of using machine translation tools:

  • Cost-effective – it’s much cheaper than hiring human translators.
  • Speed – the process is much quicker as it saves you the time needed both to translate the content and manage the process.
  • Availability – you can access the tools at any time without the need for lengthy hiring processes, contract negotiations, and all other hassles.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? There are some drawbacks though:

  • Accuracy and quality may be slightly inferior to that of human-made translations.
  • Machines lack cultural sensitivity and contextual understanding

How to translate a survey into multiple languages with Userpilot?

Userpilot is a powerful product adoption tool that allows you to analyze product usage, collect user feedback and engage users with in-app messages.

Userpilot’s localization functionality allows you to translate your surveys into 100+ languages. This makes adapting your surveys for the local target population a breeze.

How does it work?

Let’s imagine we want to create a survey for Spanish speakers. Here’s how you go about it, step by step.

Create a survey from scratch or choose a template

First, create your in-app survey.

You have the choice of building one from scratch or using one of the templates.

The templates are organized into categories so that you can find what you need easily:

  • Product (user experience and product research questions).
  • Customer experience (customer satisfaction and customer research questions).
  • Marketing (to collect information about new users).
  • Sales (sales attribution and lead qualification surveys).
Step 1: Choose the survey template
Step 1: Choose a survey template.

Customize the survey to your liking

Next, tweak your survey to match your needs.

Userpilot allows you to adjust:

  • The general look of the modal or widget
  • Survey content
  • Font family, size, and color
  • Box border type, color, width, intensity, and corner radius
  • Progress bar color and type
  • Backdrop opacity and color
Step 2: Customize the survey
Step 2: Customize the survey.

Auto-translate the survey into your preferred survey language

To enable the automatic survey translation, go to the localization tab, switch on the localization functionality, and then, add a new locale.

Step 3: Enable localization and add locale
Step 3: Enable localization and add locale.

Next, click on the Auto-Translate button to automatically translate the survey content.

Your Spanish translation is ready.

In seconds.

Step 4: Auto-translate the content in seconds
Step 4: Auto-translate the content in seconds.

Preview and publish your survey

Your survey is ready to publish. Almost.

Make sure to go over the final translation and make necessary tweaks.

Then hit ‘Publish’ and voila. Your survey is live.

Step 5: Publish the translated survey
Step 5: Publish the translated survey.

Best practices for translating surveys accurately

Let’s look at a few best practices that will help you create quality survey translations.

Check the formatting of survey questions

Before you launch the survey, check how the questions fit into your modals, slideouts, or widgets.

Some languages like Arabic and Hebrew are written from right to left.

Languages vary also in string length. For example, ‘How important is survey translation?’ In English it consists of 36 characters, while its translation into Vietnamese is 56 characters: ‘Độ quan trọng của việc dịch thuật khảo sát là bao nhiêu?’

To accommodate such differences, you may need to tweak the original design of your surveys.

Leverage the help of native professional translators

While the quality of machine translation is improving rapidly, it’s still no match for human translators when it comes to accuracy, context, or cultural relevance.

For this reason, engaging a native-speaker linguist in quality assurance is a no-brainer. It adds to the cost but ensures that your questions convey the intended meaning and elicit the required insights.

Pilot test the translated survey before launching it for all

Before you publish the survey to all your target users, why not first pilot it with a small cohort?

This will help you identify any inaccuracies or confusion your translated survey causes.

Tracking user response and survey completion rates is an easy way to verify whether your survey works as intended.

In Userpilot, you can easily analyze and compare the rates between different user segments and in different time frames.

Survey analytics in Userpilot
Survey analytics in Userpilot.

Be mindful of cultural differences in the same language

One thing you need to be extra sensitive about is cultural appropriateness. The fact that your users speak the same language as you doesn’t mean they think and feel in the same way.

If you fail to reflect language usage and cultural variations in your surveys, they may return biased results or even make your questions irrelevant. In the worst-case scenario, you can cause offence and turn your users away from you.

How can you avoid such problems?

  • Use standard language rather than idiomatic or figurative expressions to ensure your survey is widely understood.
  • Seek input from native speakers or experts familiar with cultural norms, values, beliefs, customs, taboos, and sensitive topics.
  • Provide clear and specific instructions and examples to clarify the intent and meaning of the survey questions.


SaaS products are rarely used by speakers of one language. As a result, survey translation is essential to fully understand the needs and preferences of all your users.

You can translate your survey questions either manually, using professional translation services, or using machine translation tools to automate the process.

If you want to see how automatic survey translation works in Userpilot, book the demo!

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