Thinking of conducting groups in English in Montreal?

You’re planning a series of focus groups throughout North America. You’re thinking of holding groups in Montreal, but your moderator does not speak French. Can you do focus groups in English Montreal? Probably. Should you? You might want to stop and think about it. Here’s food for thought.

Some Statistics of Interest (2011 Census, Statistics Canada)

Most people in Quebec are native French speakers

  • 65% of Montrealers have French as their mother tongue. Province-wide, this proportion jumps to 80%.
  • 11% of Montrealers report that English is their mother tongue (8% across the province).

Most people do not speak English at home or on a regular basis

  • 26% of Montrealers speak English at home (either most often spoken or regularly spoken).
  • Outside of Montreal, only 5% of Quebecers speak English at home (eithermost often spoken or regularly spoken).
  • Outside of Montreal, only 3% of the Quebec population claim English as the official language they speak most often.

Some additional insights

1. Some reasons why English speakers should not be used as a substitute for French-speaking Montrealers:

  • English Montrealers consistently poll as having different opinions vs. French Montrealers (and vs. the rest of the Quebec population for that matter).
  • English Montrealers tend to have an “anglosaxon cultural reference set” and generally speaking are not very familiar with the French Quebecer reference set (media, traditions, etc.).

2. Our recommendation: If you are coming to Montreal to obtain the point of view of the Quebec population, you should conduct the groups in French.

3. A solution if it is not possible to do groups in French: Recruit participants whose mother tongue is French and who can speak English. However, this entails its own set of bias:

  • These participants are more likely to be exposed to English culture and media than the majority of the population, who is not bilingual.
  • Although they will be able to answer questions in English, their answers might not be as nuanced and as deep as they would be in their mother tongue.
  • Ultimately, it is a question of respect. Customers appreciate when companies make an effort to interact with them in their own language, rather than ask them to adapt to their language requirements.
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