Developing informed consent materials for non-English-speaking participants: An analysis of four professional firm translations from English to Spanish.



An increasing body of research is being conducted with non-English-speaking subjects. Study-related materials, including those essential for obtaining informed consent, must often be translated from English into other languages. In this study, we sought to examine the types of issues that may arise when consent materials are translated from English to Spanish.


Drawing on expertise from five individuals associated with our research team, four of whom are native Spanish speakers of different dialects of Spanish, we crafted translations of our own consent materials for biobanking using a rigorous, multi-step process involving both forward and back translation. We then systematically compared our translations to those produced by four professional translation firms to identify potential concerns in our own and the professional translations.


We identified three primary types of problems of relevance for researchers conducting studies where translation of written information is required. These included nonequivalent registers (in particular, the introduction of more complicated language), errors of omission (reducing the clarity of the information), and changes that altered the substantive meaning of the information.


Our findings highlight the importance of working with translators who not only possess "textbook" knowledge of both languages but also an appreciation of the sociocultural factors that affect how people interpret and understand meaning. Moreover, translators who have a basic understanding of research are more likely to accurately convey essential research concepts. We describe a series of steps researchers can take that may help to improve the quality of translated materials.