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

Anne-Wil Harzing, Iris Fischlmayr, Maria Freitas, Mila Lazarova, Leonardo Yaconi, Ying Zhu, Mikael Sondergaard, Rebecca Piekkari, Cordula Barzantny, Katrin Wittenberg, Barbara Myloni, Wai-Ming Mak, Srabani Choudhury, Linda Viswat, Audra Mockaitis, Laura Salciuviene, Janaka Low, Maria Lopez, Ayse Saka-Helmhout, Deanne HartogAleksandra Grzesiuk, Francisco Castro, Roberts Graham, Ignacio Martinez, Lena Zander, Ciara Sutton, Laurence Romani, Wen-Kuei Liang, Ayda Soydas, Gozde Yilmaz, Alan Feely, Miguel Olivas-Lujan, Martha Maznevski

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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
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Cross Cultural Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

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