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Ethics & Human Research

Research Documents for Populations with Limited English Proficiency: Translation Approaches Matter

ABSTRACT To avoid excluding individuals with limited English proficiency from participating in research, the consent form and other documents should be presented to them in their primary language and in a format that is understandable. However, evidence suggests that, when documents are translated for prospective and actual research participants with limited English proficiency, these individuals often fail to engage with the documents and the research in the same terms as their English-speaking counterparts do. We argue that this is because methodological challenges remain after a decision to translate has been made. This study investigated how translation approaches affected reader response and intelligibility. Participants were asked to review two translated versions of a survey (which reflected a functionalist and a literal approach to translation) followed by semistructured interviews. Quantitative and qualitative analysis revealed a preference for a functionalist translation and a higher number of problems raised in regard to the literal translation. The recommendations we offer here include considering the most appropriate translation approach for a specific genre and purpose.

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