Session: Lost in Translation? Conducting Qualitative Research in Diverse Cultural Contexts (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

121 Lost in Translation? Conducting Qualitative Research in Diverse Cultural Contexts

Cluster: Research Design and Measurement

Frances Nedjat-Haiem, MSW, University of Southern California , Shadi S. Martin, PhD, University of Alabama , Pablo Arriaza, PhD, University of New Hampshire, Durham , Hee Yun Lee, PhD, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities , Tazuko Shibusawa, PhD, New York University and Deborah K. Padgett, PhD, New York University
Saturday, January 16, 2010: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Seacliff B (Hyatt Regency)
Qualitative research depends upon capturing subjective meaning in social and cultural contexts. Yet qualitative methodologists have been surprisingly silent on the challenges of working in non-English languages and cultures (Padgett, 2008; Shibusawa & Lukens, 2004). In the absence of consensual guidelines for translating and interpreting qualitative cross-language/cultural data, researchers may improvise and/or obscure their procedures. Indeed, much qualitative research is published without reference to the methods used in translation or in dealing with cultural idioms and meanings that are not easily understood in English language translation (Temple & Young, 2004). When researchers employ interpreters and translation, how do we know when such research is accurate, culturally-relevant, and represents the meaning of what participants wish to convey? For example, should all transcripts be translated to English before analysis? Is verbatim translation plausible? Is back-translation necessary? Do interpretivist methods such as phenomenology present more challenges than methods such as grounded theory that have more specific procedures?

In order to be rigorous, cross-language and cross-cultural research needs to explicitly address the methodological challenges that surround data collection and analysis. In this roundtable, five researchers will share their experiences and a senior qualitative researcher will moderate the discussion. This proposed roundtable will: 1) explore the challenges of conducting cross-language research; 2) elaborate on ways to improve the accuracy and credibility of the data; and 3) discuss specific methods to enhance the cultural validity of the data and interpretations.

Presenters will draw upon their own experiences to address the above aims. The first presenter will describe her methods in eliciting explanatory models of low-income, Spanish-speaking, Latinas with advanced cancers. Methods used to enhance cultural validity included: dual note-taking, debriefing meetings, written case summaries, memo writing, audit trail, and bi-monthly team meetings. The second presenter will discuss her phenomenological study of health perceptions/practices of older Iranian immigrants in which she conducted in-depth interviews in their native language and used both English and Persian transcripts for data analysis. The third presenter will discuss his experiences with two phenomenological studies conducted in Spanish with Cuban and Chilean participants coping with end-of-life concerns. He will describe various methods of bracketing used to enhance rigor and will highlight the insider/outsider dynamics at play. The fourth presenter used qualitative methods to explore the cultural meaning of cancer in Hmong refugees. Data were directly translated into English, skipping a first step of transcribing the data in the Hmong language. Procedures for preserving the original cultural meaning of the data will be discussed. The final presenter will discuss the challenges of translating Japanese transcripts into English. Verbatim translation poses difficulties because of the high-context orientation of Japanese culture. Communication in Japanese is often implicit forcing translators to make inferences. This presenter will discuss the way she used two sets of translations to enhance rigor. The roundtable will end with a panel discussion led by the moderator in which lessons learned are reviewed and recommendations offered to improve the cultural validity of cross-language qualitative research.

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