COVID Screening | Upload Vaccine Card | Submit Exemption | COVID-19

Language Translation

Sometimes a research project requires that the participants work with documents, such as consent forms and surveys, in a language other than English. In the Bakersfield area, such research documents are almost always in Spanish. It is not good enough to simply provide a translation that is adequate for the participant to "get the gist" of what is meant to be communicated.

Specifically, the IRB requires that any translated document be written in language appropriate for that type of document and free from obvious errors. That is, the IRB does not have lower expectations of the writing quality of documents in Spanish as compared to those in English.

For translation into languages other than Spanish, please check with the IRB.

Before you begin work, please consult:


A casual language translation implies disrespect for the literacy of the participants, may contain wording that is not appropriate for formal written documents in that language, or could even be offensive. All of these problems violate the principle of respect in The Belmont Report, a principle that the IRB must ensure researchers uphold.

In addition, in order for consent forms translated into another language to enable informed consent by the prospective research subject, the translated consent form must communicate the essential elements clearly and correctly. A consent form that lacks these features violates the requirement that the researcher respect the autonomy of the potential participant, as stated in The Belmont Report, an essential principle of ethical research which the IRB must also guard.

Finally, a poor translation may stigmatize the research associated with the translated document, which may undermine the goals of the research and reflect poorly on this institution. This would be particularly insensitive for a university, such as CSUB, with a predominantly Mexican-American service area population.


Steps in Language Translation for IRB Authorization

1. Submit your protocol to the IRB, including the English and Spanish versions of all materials. [See Language Translation Assistance below].

2. You will receive word back from the IRB on the Spanish materials, indicating either: [a] they are acceptable, [b] minor revisions are needed and indicated in the feedback, or [c] the materials need major revision involving someone skilled in English-Spanish document translation.

3. If major revisions are needed you may use translators suggested by the IRB or obtain the assistance of a translator that you choose. Resubmit the Spanish materials for review.

4. When the IRB determines that your Spanish materials are acceptable, you will be sent a formal, IRB authorization letter, indicating that you may begin your research.

5. Then you may begin your research.


Language Translation Assistance

The Translation Tips and Pitfalls page offers general principles, specific tips, and pitfalls to avoid in translating documents.

Phrases and sentences commonly found in consent documents are translated into acceptable Spanish in the following:

Common Elements of Adult Consent Form 

Common Elements of Parental/Guardian Consent for Child Participation in Research 

CSU-Monterey Bay Templates are a series of consent form templates in English and Spanish from CSU-Monterey Bay [used by permission]. You will find an example adult consent form, a parental/guardian consent form for a child to participate in research, and a child assent form. Of course you would not include any elements that refer specifically to CSU-Monterey Bay or personnel there.

Professional Language Translators

Language translations can often be obtained through e-mail and online links. Translators will usually provide an estimated translation fee based on the English document. Following are several sources of professional translation.

I.   The IRB may be able to recommend specific translators, who will assist in document translation for a fee.  Please contact Dr. Isabel Sumaya.

II.  Spanish-Certified Court Interpreters

     Here is a list of Spanish-certified interpreters serving Kern County, with contact information. These individuals are also authorized to translate legal documents into Spanish for court filings.

III. Translators Use by Educational Institutions

A.  Kern High School District uses “Orchid Interpreting Services” [Fresno, CA  1-800-556-1316]

     B.  Several California State University campuses use “Transcend Translations” [Davis, CA]