Timing Multilanguage Qualitative

Posted On: 03/12/13

By: Ilka Kuhagen    Veronique Gaboriau    Julia Spink   

Managing time across cultures and languages is important. Some languages and cultures are faster, others slower. If you design in a “fast” language, you need to allow more time for “slow” languages.

How it works

The same discussion in different languages takes a different amount of time. Some languages need more time as they are wordier, with longer words or more polite additions. As a rule of thumb, English groups that need 90 minutes will take about 120 minutes in French or German. Make sure to allow enough time to cover the same guide in different countries.


German and French market research sessions are often longer than in the U.K. or US. This is in part due to language: German and French people use more words and longer words and sentences, which requires more time.

Even more interestingly, German and French respondents need a longer warm up period than the British: the Germans because they are more reserved and need to be reassured about privacy issues; the French because they are individualistic and need to be trained in group exercises and discipline. These are very different reasons in nature, but both require allowing more time for introductions.

French researchers use a lot of projective techniques, and spend time understanding the respondents’ personality, social and cultural values, beyond the controlled social image they want to give to others during a group, in order to make sure analysis goes beyond the rational answers.

In contrast, German consumers come ready to perform the job of being a respondent. They want to know what is needed and to get on with their task. More time, however, is needed to set the scene, reassure everyone about privacy, and create group interaction


Make sure to highlight the important research needs and allow enough additional time in “slow” language countries.

An increasingly used compromise in all countries is to add some extensive pre- and post-group assignments to stretch and enhance the data gathered in a specific project, so that face-to-face time is used most efficiently.