Appendix D

Annotations / Footnotes

Annotations (which are also called ‘footnotes’) help to clarify the intended meaning of a source text concept, phrase or term and provide information which allows translators, reviewers and adjudicators to focus on what is meant in survey measurement terms in order to do a better job. They are not meant to be translated verbatim or be added as footnotes to the questionnaire in the target language, in contrast to question-by-question objectives (QxQ’s). In this appendix, we draw directly from the ESS Round 7 Translation Guidelines, which provide examples of the use of annotations for the translation teams (European Social Survey, 2014).

The example question below and the two corresponding annotations help to explain how annotations are to be used.

Example 1 (item B3, ESS Round 4):

“How difficult or easy do you find it to make up your mind1 about political issues2? Please use this card.

Annotation 1:   Forming an opinion

Annotation 2:   ‘Political issues’ in this context refer to political debates, policies, controversies etc.”

In Example 1, the annotation for “make up your mind” reads “forming an opinion”, and the annotation for “political issues” refers to “political debates, policies, controversies, etc.”

The first annotation thus explains an English idiom. Countries may end up using a translation that is a literal translation of “forming an opinion”, since this is what is common in their language. Saying “Do not translate the footnote!” does refer to not adding a footnote in the translated questionnaires. However, in this case, the explanation given in the footnote (‘forming an opinion’) may be an appropriate solution for some target languages: Whether the explanations given in a footnote can be translated and directly be used in the translated questionnaire is a case-by-case decision. In the majority of cases, however, direct translation of footnotes cannot be used in the translated questionnaire (such as with annotation 2):

The annotation for “political issues” reads “Political issues in this context refer to political debates, policies, controversies, etc.” To the extent possible, countries should not translate “debates, policies or controversies” but rather use these examples in order to find a generic expression covering all these and other examples. Countries have ended up saying things like “political topics”, “political issues” or “as regards the field of politics”. On annotations, see also Behr and Scholz (2011).

Annotations on source questionnaires are not intended as crutches for translators to explain what English words of phrases mean in ordinary terms.

Instead, the goal of annotations is to provide information which allows translators, reviewers, and adjudicators to focus on what is meant in survey measurement terms in order to do a better job.

NB: In no case the survey instruments as used in target languages should contain footnotes, as only the proper question and answer text should be used for the interview. Footnotes are only intended to facilitate the translation process!

Example 2:

“How many people, including children, live in this household?

Considering Example 2, a question commonly used in many surveys, in some cultures ‘household’ might be automatically associated with ‘home’ and hence ‘family.’ If the annotation notes point out that the focus is on a dwelling unit (however variously defined via ‘shared cooking pot’ or ‘shared finances,’ etc.), the intended and necessary focus becomes clear to the translator. At the same time, survey questions often use idiomatic expressions. Adding annotations for translators to help clarify the intended sense here is often necessary, and study countries should be explicitly invited to point out in advance where they would like clarification notes in the form of annotations.