Reform and improvement are imperative in the current South African education system. Monitoring
of school and learner achievement is an essential for establishing praxis for school improvement.
Diversity of culture and South Africa’s 11 official languages make it difficult to develop valid
monitoring systems. Limited resources, time constraints and the need to redress neglect of large
portions of the education infrastructure from the apartheid era make it problematic to develop new
monitoring systems for all official languages. Adaptation and translation of existing international
monitoring instruments provide alternative solutions to developing new monitoring systems.
Adaptation and translation of existing instruments is a daunting process, which balances statistical
analysis, translation processes and user and expert evaluations. We investigate how to balance
these different processes in order to create an instrument that provides valid data for educational
decisions. The processes utilised in the adaptation and translation of the vocabulary subtest of the
Performance Indicators for Primary Schools (PIPS) test for the South African context are used to
illustrate the complex interplay between user and expert input as well as psychometric rigour. It
is hoped this paper will contribute to the development of the necessary instrument adaptation skills
in South Africa.