The changing language of research: Why English is not always the right choice
About 1.4 billion of the world’s 8 billion people speak English. And while this represents about 20% of the world’s population, only about 360 million people consider English to be their first language. Even in English, there is considerable variation in the use of certain words.
Regional preferences, slang, and other cultural nuances also greatly influence language use.
These geographic and cultural nuances go beyond English – French spoken in France is different from French spoken in Canada. Spanish is the official language of 21 countries, but the culture and history of these countries are very different, which affects many things, including language.
The number of languages spoken in the Asia-Pacific region is astounding, even when you add in the number of dialects. There are about 170 dialects in the Philippines alone. India, with 16 official languages, boasts more than 19,500 dialects.
With so much variation in languages, many companies settle on English as the easier option for market research. But taking a deeper look at what successful brands know about successful global expansion, many leaders recognize that English is not always the right choice for global market research.
Choosing English for market research may not be the best approach. As brands use research data to shape marketing messages, those messages can be unnecessarily skewed simply by the lack of translation. In order to get a true picture of customer moods or identify unsatisfied market needs, brands can miss a lot if the research is not conducted in the respondents’ native language.
Firms that still ask, “Can’t we just do it in English?” are missing the most important question about qualitative research. Making non-English-speaking respondents answer in English risks limiting personalized representations and producing less accurate responses, which can compromise data quality.
To produce high-quality results, it is best to create high-quality baseline data, which requires professional translation of both qualitative and quantitative work.
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