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Some Facts about Non-Native Language Interviews

Hardly a week goes past when we are not asked to quote to recruit for English language interviews in markets where English is not spoken as a first language. Are they a good idea?

In our experience, there are 3 main reasons why clients may request non-native language interviews, one of which is actually not born out in practice.

1:- The client wishes to undertake some of the qualitative interviews themselves in order to assist the analysis and interpretation of results.

2:- To save money on translation and transcripts.

3:- To save time on translations and transcripts (this is misguided as it usually takes longer to recruit and so there is no time gain).

There are occasions where good quality English interviews can be sourced. These are usually with Key Opinion Leaders who are used to publishing and presenting in English. You do need to be aware though that many such respondents, even though they are capable of undertaking an interview in English, will still insist on a local language interview. Other than for these respondents there is generally a trade-off you need to consider when contemplating requesting English language interviews.

Which markets? In Europe Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia have a higher proportion of English speakers than France, Italy and Spain where local language interviews are likely to be essential.

How important is quality? If you need a high quality interview we would always recommend native language. It is much harder to convey detailed information when not speaking your mother tongue, even if you are fluent.

Respondent pool and sample size. You may well need to relax inclusion criteria as there is a much reduced pool of respondents to recruit from. Samples also need to reflect this.

Be prepared to discard an interview. It is not unusual that a client is unable to use an interview as, though the respondent was fluent in English, there were difficulties in understanding due to strong accents.

Time. There are 2 aspects to this; you need to allow much longer for recruitment of English speakers and you also need to allow longer for the actual interview as it is likely you will need to repeat questions and speak more slowly.

Incentives. We need to pay higher incentives for a non-native language interview, client’s incentive caps need to take this into account.

There are certain respondent types where local language interviews will almost always be required; these include National and Regional payers, patients, nurses and in many markets GPs.

In Summary

Interviews in non-native language are almost always a compromise. If quality is the prime concern then local language interviews are to be preferred. If cost of translations/transcription for one or two respondents in a market is prohibitive then recruiting in English can overcome the budgetary constraints, though the client need to be aware of the implication on pool of respondents available and the probable quality of the interview.