Using Multiple Languages with Survey Software

Posted on : March 28, 2016 - by :

Researchers sometimes need to ask their questions and answer choices in multiple languages. This is often true of surveys that cover multiple countries. It also can be true when survey different ethnic groups in a single country. Your survey software should make it easy to have different sections of a survey present the questions in different languages.

You could have a question at the start of the survey asking people to choose their preferred language, skip or branch to the appropriate section of the survey, depending on the answer. Another possibility is that if you are sending out email invitations to people to take a web survey, and you know the preferred language of each person in advance, you can have a sophisticated program automatically skip people to the appropriate section.

A key feature to make analysis of data collected in multiple languages easy, it is for a program to allow more than one question to save its answers in a particular variable. For example, if a survey has English and Spanish sections, the program should let you save the answers to both versions of a particular question into the same variable or data location, regardless of which language section of the survey was seen. If it does so, you can easily produce a table or chart showing the combined answers to a particular question.

Some programs do not allow you to assign more than one question to the same variable. This is particularly true of the less expensive online tools. Such tools keep things simple by not offering as much flexibility as research professionals often need. If the answers given to each language version of a question are stored in separate variables, you would have to create separate tables showing the answers from each section and then combine them yourself. It is very much easier if the program can do the combining for you.

Of course, if you plan to use multiple languages, you must make sure that your survey software supports the relevant languages. Most program support all the Western European languages, because they usually do not need any special provisions. Non-Western languages, particularly far Eastern languages, can present problems for some programs.