• Presentation

Who is Truly a Monolingual Speaker?


Park, H., & Son, J. (2012, May). Who is Truly a Monolingual Speaker?. Presented at AAPOR 2012, Orlando, FL.


When survey instruments are translated for collecting data from limited English-speaking immigrant populations, cognitive interviewing with such populations is becoming an essential part of the process for assessing the quality of translated questionnaires. Recent studies in cognitive science have found that monolinguals and bilinguals used different cognitive areas of the brain when solving a problem, and bilinguals manifested a cognitive system with the ability to attend to more relevant information while ignoring distractions (Bialystok 2007; Hernandez & Bates 2001). These findings suggest monolinguals likely encounter different problems in understanding the meaning of survey questions, even in their native language. Therefore, for cognitive interviews that aim to improve the quality of translated questionnaires, it is crucial to conduct interviews with such respondents to elicit directly relevant information. However, there has been no standardized tool for identifying these speakers. We will identify three groups of “monolingual speakers” from the recruitment dataset using the following definitions: 1, based on self-rated English speaking ability; 2, based on self-rated reading ability; and 3, based on both abilities. We will investigate how similar or different these groups are by comparing the size and the demographic characteristics of each group defined by different classifications. We will also examine if there are alternative measures used for identifying monolingual populations and attempt to come up with measures suitable for particular project needs. For analysis, we will use the data from a cognitive pretesting study of the American Community Survey (ACS) Language Assistance Guides, sponsored by the U.S. Census Bureau. We screened approximately 900 Chinese and Korean speakers by utilizing various recruitment methods (Liu et al., 2010; Park et al., 2011.) Once interested candidates had called in, we administered a short questionnaire including two questions about self-rated English speaking ability and reading ability, along with the demographic characteristics of the candidates.