Does the use of English-language questionnaires in cross-national research obscure national differences?

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Abstract

Cross-national research is plagued by many obstacles. This article focuses on one of these obstacles: the fact that research in more than one country usually involves respondents with different native languages. We investigated whether the language of the questionnaire influences response patterns. More specifically we tested whether responding in a common language (English) leads to a homogenization of responses across countries, hence obscuring national differences. We tested this hypothesis with a sample of 3419 undergraduate students in 24 countries. Half the students in each country received an English-language questionnaire, while the other half received the same questionnaire in their native language. Three types of questions were included in the questionnaire: questions about cultural norms and values, questions about characteristics of the ideal type of jobs that students would prefer after graduation, and questions about the reasons for choosing particular electives in their studies. Differences across countries were considerably smaller for nearly all questions when the English-language questionnaire was used. Consequences and recommendations for cross-national research and management are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-224
JournalInternational Journal of Cross Cultural Management
Volume5
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • international research
  • language
  • research methods

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