There are many qualities to keep in mind when choosing to work with a market research moderator or researcher. However, when you’re trying to learn from your multilingual and multicultural consumers, it’s even more important to keep in mind certain qualities to make sure you get the most robust insights representative of your participants. The following are some examples of ideas to keep in mind and the reason behind them…
1) Primary language. Making sure the moderator speaks and fully understands the primary language of your participants would make your consumers feel at ease, it would save time and save you money, as well as many misunderstandings not representative of what they really think about your brand.
2) Understanding the culture and its nuances. Understanding the culture of our participants and your consumers will help us avoid any misunderstandings, avoid bias and really focus on the participants and what they have to share. Understanding the culture help us remain focused, keep an open minded, and be respectful of our participants. For instance, it’s pretty common for Hispanic participants to be late to the interviews particularly if they’ve recently moved to the U.S., they’re still influenced by their daily lives and expectations from their home country. It’s perfectly acceptable to be late to an appointment or meeting.
Actually, it’s considered rude to be on time to an appointment or even your own wedding! So, when participants arrive late to our focus groups either virtual or face to face, it’s normal. Once they start having more contact with the American culture… perhaps their kids are going to school now, or the participants are working, they start adapting to the new expectations.
3) Being flexible and patient during the process. As with many other projects, flexibility and patience are essential. Imagine being invited to share your thoughts about a brand or service with a group of strangers in the case of a focus group. Or being invited to participate in an in-depth interview (IDI) and as a participant you’re not sure how to turn the video on, or have others tech issues. A moderator needs to be patient and flexible as time and project requirements allow. For instance, I was recently conducting an IDI with a Spanish speaking participant, who was having a hard time answering some of the questions. After a few minutes and several questions later, she shared with me that she had some hearing issues and learning disabilities.
So I shared with her that I would be happy to speak louder, at a slower rate and go over some of the main questions I had already asked. She was open and grateful, and the interview ended up being one of the most robust we had for that specific project. Or even if I’m talking about a brand, show them the logo in case how I say it in English and how they hear it due to language barriers is not making any sense for them. For example, a very common word Hyundai, where the H sound is silent in Spanish.
4) The dialects of language. The English language is the top language spoken in the world, yet it has several dialects or variations based on the region or social group is used in, think Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and the United States. The same is true for Spanish, people from different parts of the world speak Spanish at a different speed, and might use different words to refer to the same object.
There are more than 7 dialects of Spanish spoken around the world. For instance, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Rio Platense Spanish, and Caribbean Spanish, just to mention a few. For example, if I’m asking a question about strawberries to Spanish speaking participants, I’d need to select the right word so participants can actually understand me. For example for the word strawberries, participants who come from the Rio Platense region say frutilla, while people on the north side of Latin America would call it fresa. Actually, the word frutilla to many north/central Latin Americans represents a puree of fruits and not necessarily strawberry.
5) Formal vs. informal Spanish. As a former instructor of Spanish, I remember this comparison caused a lot of confusion among my students. Formal Spanish is used in the Hispanic culture as a sign of respect to people we have just met, and the elderly. With formal Spanish the meaning doesn’t change but the way we say each verb and the personal pronoun used do change completely to usted vs. vos.
For these reasons, it’s important for multilingual moderators and researchers to keep these suggestions in mind in order to be culturally sensitive, be consistent in their communication, and obtain more robust insights. If you’d like to learn more, or would like to see how I could help your brand get more robust insights from your consumers in a culturally sensitive way, please connect with me. You can send me an email at Natalia@InfanteConsultingandResearch.com or visit www.infanteconsultingandresearch.com
Natalia Infante Caylor, PhD
President, Infante Consulting and Research