Can we receive good feedback from bilingual people if we test a prototype in one language but do the usability study in another?

  • Well you always can...but why do you need to? Feedback should always be in the user's native language if possible
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 13:10
  • Need to explain the scenario a bit more. Is this just for cost reasons or do you want to understand how spaniard cope with english interfaces? All depends on the hypothesis. Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 13:17
  • We have a prototype made in english because, we are building first in english but we want to fail early and often ... that's why I want to test also in spanish. But not enough budget to translate the prototype. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


As per my understanding, the question is 'Can we have usability testing of a website which is in English while asking questions and getting feedback in another language (Spanish) from same user?'

I am not exposed to anything like this before but I think influencing factors would be:

User's expertise in both the languages: He has to read/scan/understand the content in one language (English) in order to use the site. And provide feedback/understand instructions in other language (Spanish) which will make sense to moderator (the person conducting UT).

Moderator's expertise in both the languages: He needs to guide/give instructions/ask questions to user in one language (Spanish). Also needs to understand what user is actually doing/seeing/scanning/problem areas. And this is possible only if the moderator is good in the language in which the content is (English).

Both above factors tell us that failing to any one of these 2 factors will result in poor or even useless usability testing.

Interestingly, if company satisfies above two factors, it vanishes the need of having UT questionnaire in different language (Spanish) and having website content in different language (English). Because, if both of them understands the content language (English) there is no point questioning/answering in different language (Spanish).


I don't totally understand the setup. But I'd read this:

What's found by research is that people are more likely to recall information if the language it is memorised in is the same as the language it is recalled in...


Cognitive context-dependent memory is a term that describes improved memory recall for information that is both encoded and retrieved in the same cognitive state.[1] The clearest example of a cognitive context-dependent effect has been demonstrated in studies of proficient bilingual speakers, as it has been hypothesized that different languages provide a different cognitive context. It has been shown that both autobiographical and semantic memories could be better recalled when the same language was used for both encoding and retrieval. In particular, Marian and Neisser studied this effect in Russian immigrants to the United States by looking at autobiographical memory.[26] For this study, participants were asked to recall specific autobiographical memories in response to word cues. By varying both the language of the interview (either Russian or English) and the language word cues were presented in, it was possible to alter which autobiographical memories were recalled. Importantly, interviewing and word-cueing in Russian biased participants towards recalling memories that had occurred in that language....


This might be viable and sensible, depending on your expected audience. If the audience are expected to be Spanish speakers, but the site is in English, and the Spanish users will have to work with an English language site, then this usability study will be with your expected audience, and this makes sense. To analyse and assess the responses, it makes sense to do this in their native language, Spanish.

However, why would you do this? Why aim at Spanish-speaking users, with a site in English?

If this does not represent your target audience, then they are the wrong people to be doing the UX study.

So the site should be written in your expected audiences native language, the study should be in your testers native language, and your testers should be representative of your expected audience. I am not sure how you get into needing two languages here.

  • Why aim at Spanish-speaking users, with a site in English? Because for example, if I want to prototype a website, if the team start with the english version because they are more comfortable in english and because, we will build in english first, It costly to always translate the whole prototype in spanish just for the sake of testing it. Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 17:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.