The increasing ethnic diversity of the US workforce has created a need for research tools that can be used with multi-lingual worker populations. Developing multi-language questionnaire items is a complex process; however, very little has been documented in the literature.
Commonly used English items from the Job Content Questionnaire and Quality of Work Life Questionnaire were translated by two interdisciplinary bilingual teams and cognitively tested in interviews with English-, Spanish-, and Chinese-speaking workers.
Common problems across languages mainly concerned response format. Language-specific problems required more conceptual than literal translations. Some items were better understood by non-English speakers than by English speakers. De-centering (i.e., modifying the English original to correspond with translation) produced better understanding for one item.
Translating questionnaire items and achieving equivalence across languages require various kinds of expertise. Backward translation itself is not sufficient. More research efforts should be concentrated on qualitative approaches to developing useful research tools. Am. J. Ind. Med. 53:194–203 2010. Published 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.