Language as a Factor in the Quality of Demographic Data and Translation Issues in the Management of Surveys

  • Jacob S. Siegel


Language in censuses and surveys is a special form of communication, requiring a degree of literacy and linguistic sophistication on the part of the respondent to understand the questions and respond appropriately to them. As sources of data secured from many persons with limited proficiency in the national language and as sources of data on language use and literacy, the products of censuses and surveys are imperfect. The survey process must be structured so as to encourage cooperation, but cooperation cannot always be achieved. The resulting errors range from incomplete coverage of the population, called an undercount, to failure to report on items on the questionnaire, called nonresponse error, and responding erroneously to items on the questionnaire, called item-response error. Unless adequate adjustments are made for these errors, the results will probably be biased. This chapter will be concerned mainly with the problems attendant to the enumeration in censuses and surveys of persons with limited proficiency in English and the methods used to overcome, reduce, and manage such problems, particularly the use of translation devices.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob S. Siegel
    • 1
  1. 1.North BethesdaUSA

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