Methodological challenges of cross-language qualitative research with South Asian communities living in the UK

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In this manuscript we investigate i) the influence of ethnic, gender and age concordance with interviewers and ii) how expression of qualitative data varies between interviews delivered in English and community languages (Punjabi/Urdu) with monolingual and bi-lingual participants, across three generations of the Indian Sikh and Pakistani Muslim communities, living in the United Kingdom (U.K.).

We analysed and interpreted semi-structured interview transcripts that were designed to collect data about lifestyles, disease management, community practices/beliefs, and social networks. First, qualitative content analysis was applied to transcripts. Second, a framework was applied as a guide to identify cross-language illustrations where responses varied in length, expression and depth.

Participant responses differed by language and topic. First generation migrants when discussing religion, culture, or family practice were much more likely to use group or community narratives and give a greater length of response, indicating familiarity or importance to such issues. Ethnic and gender concordance generated greater rapport between researchers and participants centred on community values and practices. Further, open-ended questions that were less direct were better suited for first generation migrants.

Community-based researchers need more time to complete interviews in second languages, acknowledge that narratives can be contextualised in both personal and community views, and re-frame questions that may lead to greater expression. Furthermore, we detail a number of recommendations with regard to validating the translation of interviews from community languages to English as well as measures for testing language proficiency.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-28
JournalFamily Medicine and Community Health
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Ethnicity, community , concordance, language, South Asian, qualitative, interviews