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Methodological challenges of cross-language qualitative research with South Asian communities living in the UK
  1. Manbinder S. Sidhu1,
  2. Farina Kokab1,
  3. Kate Jolly1,
  4. Tom Marshall1,
  5. Nicola K. Gale2 and
  6. Paramjit Gill1
  1. 1. Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  2. 2. Health Services Management Centre, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  1. Corresponding author : Manbinder S. Sidhu, BA Hons, PhD, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK, E-mail: m.s.sidhu{at}


Objective We investigate (1) the influence of ethnic, gender, and age concordance with interviewers and (2) how expression of qualitative data varies between interviews delivered in English and community languages (Punjabi/Urdu) with monolingual and bilingual participants across three generations of the Indian Sikh and Pakistani Muslim communities living in the UK.

Methods We analyzed 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.

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

Conclusion Community-based researchers need more time to complete interviews in second languages, need to acknowledge that narratives can be contextualized in both personal and community views, and reframe 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.

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

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See

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