Contribution by Jim Myers, NLCC T/TA Language Evaluator and Director of Evaluation and Research at Gary Bess Associates, and Cree Whelshula, NLCC T/TA Director

Surveys are important for language revitalization activities for a variety of reasons.

  • To demonstrate to funders or potential funders that you are including the voice of your community in your proposed project.
  • To identify the status of language endangerment by asking your community if they speak, how much they know, who do they know that speaks, etc.
  • To improve ongoing language classes or outreach activities you want to have feedback for continuous quality improvement.

The way you develop a survey will depend on what you want to know. You can ask simple yes or no questions, rated questions, or open-ended questions. Regardless, here are some highlights from our in-house expert, Jim Myers, developing good survey questions.

  1. Make survey questions clear.
    Questions should be precise so that the respondent knows exactly what the question is to be answered. Strive for only one interpretation of the question.
  2. Avoid double-barreled questions.
    Whenever the word “and” appears in your question, you should check to see if you are asking a double-barreled question (i.e., two questions in one).
  3. Understand your audience.
    Work to ensure that “all” of your target audience understands the questions you are asking (e.g., be mindful of professional jargon and acronyms/strive that questions are culturally relevant and sensitive).
  4. Short questions are best.
    In general, you should assume that respondents will read questions quickly; therefore, you should provide clear, short items.
  5. Avoid Negative Terms
    In the haste of reading a question, respondents may read over negative terms like “not” and answer the question on that basis.
  6. Avoid biased items and terms
    The meaning of someone’s response to a question depends in large part on the wording of the question that was asked.