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Education Research International
Volume 2012, Article ID 503824, 13 pages
Review Article

Unwanted Literal Translation: An Underdiscussed Problem in International Achievement Studies

Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland

Received 29 March 2012; Accepted 18 June 2012

Academic Editor: Gwo-Jen Hwang

Copyright © 2012 Inga Arffman. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In international achievement studies, a common test is typically used which is translated into the languages of the participating countries. For the test to be valid, all the translations and different-language test versions need to be equally difficult to read and answer. An underestimated and underdiscussed threat to this validity is unwanted literal translation. This paper discusses the problem of unwanted literal translation in international achievement studies. It defines what is meant by unwanted literal translation and explains why it is a threat to the validity of international achievement studies and why it is so difficult to avoid. It also discusses problems there have been when translating these tests which may have promoted unwanted literal translation and provides suggestions on how to improve the translation practices so as to ensure that the translations are in as natural and idiomatic language as possible.