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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

Collecting information from people of non-English speaking background: Translation of survey instruments in the NSW Health Survey Program Volume 12 Issue 8

Deborah Baker

New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 12(8) 231 - 233 Published: 2001

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Deborah Baker


Around one-quarter of NSW residents were born overseas, and 50 per cent of these were born in countries where English is not the main language spoken. Of these, over 25 per cent do not speak English proficiently enough to complete a telephone survey in English. In order to improve the representation of people of non-English speaking (NES) background in the surveys, the questionnaires for the 1997 and 1998 NSW Health Surveys, 1999 Older People’s Health Survey, and 2001 Child Health Survey, were translated into the major community languages where English proficiency is poor. This article describes the challenges of translating health survey instruments, lessons learnt through experience, and issues for consideration in the future.