Language choices and 'blind shadows': Investigating interviews with chinese participants

Martin Cortazzi, Nick Pilcher, Lixian Jin

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


This article shows the importance of the language chosen for research interviewing when more than one language could be used. It does so through the context of research with Chinese speakers published in English. The article has two research aims: first, to investigate research reports regarding how they deal with the issue of language choice. Second, it presents and discusses the procedure and results of seven pairs of interviews with Chinese interviewees, in order to investigate empirically the issue of language choice. The first interviews were conducted in English (by a native speaker of English); second, 'blind shadow' interviews were then conducted in Chinese (by a native speaker of Chinese) using Chinese translations of the same questions with the same participants. Results show numerous differences in the quality of the data obtained depending upon the choice of language for interviewing. These results arguably apply to languages other than Chinese; this is indicated within a framework of scenarios for language choices for research interviewing, and through recommendations for researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-535
Number of pages31
JournalQualitative Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese participants
  • interviews
  • language choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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