Lost in Translation? Openness, Reflexivity and Pragmatism as Guiding Principles for Cross-Language Qualitative Research





cross-language research, foreign languages, translation, gap of understanding, openness, reflexivity, pragmatism


In increasingly globalised and linguistically diverse societies, cross-language constellations in qualitative research are becoming more probable and necessary. Based on experiences we gained during our research in foreign language settings, we reflect on three guiding principles of qualitative research—openness, reflexivity and pragmatism—and how they are applied when dealing with the manifold challenges of linguistic understanding. Taking up ongoing discussions about this issue, we provide an account of a reflexive methodology aware of its preconditions and limitations. We argue in favour of a confident approach towards language difficulties and point out that qualitative research has always demanded the chosen methods to be flexible enough to adjust to challenges in the field.


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Author Biographies

Franz Erhard, Universität Siegen

Franz ERHARD, Dr. phil., is research associate at the University of Siegen (Germany), Department for Social Sciences. Field of interest are poverty and welfare, violence and conflict, qualitative methodology.

Nadine Jukschat, Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz

Nadine JUKSCHAT, Dr. phil., is professor of applied sociology at Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz. Her research interests are social problems and social control, qualitative research methodology, mediatized life worlds and digitalization.

Kornelia Sammet, Deutsches Jugendinstitut

Kornelia SAMMET, Dr. phil., is sociologist at German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut e.v.), Department Youth and Youth Services in Halle/Saale (Germany). Her fields of interest are qualitative methodology, sociology of religion and culture, sociology of professions, social inequalities.




How to Cite

Erhard, F., Jukschat, N., & Sammet, K. (2021). Lost in Translation? Openness, Reflexivity and Pragmatism as Guiding Principles for Cross-Language Qualitative Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-22.3.3722