Questionnaire Topics

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The content for this section has been adapted from A Manual for Strategic Planning and Review for Language Programs.<ref>Bendor-Samuel, Margaret and David Bendor-Samuel; Robert A. Jackson, editor. 1996. A manual for strategic planning and review for language programs. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics</ref>

1. Historical Sketch

  • Migrations
  • Colonization
  • Trade
  • Past kingdoms
  • Domination by/of other groups
  • Introduction of other than traditional religions
  • Relationship with the nation of which it is a part


"It has been found that groups that have been low in prestige because larger groups have some sort of control lover them may at first be resistant to change."<ref>ibid. p42</ref>

"A group that has been in transition and been uprooted for political reasons may be more responsive than more stable groups. A group that has designs on more political power or more prestige may see promise in the program."<ref>ibid. p42</ref>

2. Geography

A map should be made including:

  • note the extent of the area
  • physical and political boundaries
  • dialect areas, including the most prestigious (if any)
  • distances between communities and modes of travel
  • locations of infrastructure
  • any features that would need special consideration for widespread literacy
  • areas only accessible seasonally


"The data in this part... is highly significant. The danger is for the language team to get so absorbed in the technical task that they lose sight of the total environment." <ref>ibid. p43</ref>

3. Demographic survey

  • percentage of urban/rural dwellers
  • total population of language group
  • name of each significant settlement and estimated population
  • community population composition, e.g. adult:child population ratio
  • ethnic composition of settlements if relevant
  • distribution of population over area surveyed
  • perception of people of their distribution, e.g. do they group themselves by village, district, etc.
  • percentage of language group population living outside the language group and where
  • any political/other barriers which divide the language group


"There is often a marked difference between rural and urban people although they come from the same areas originally and speak the same language. Sometimes these differences are superficial; at other times they are very significant."<ref>ibid. p44</ref>

"We are interested in the composition of the community... in some areas many of the young adults leave the village for work in the towns and this needs to be noted. If there is a dearth of children it can point to a number of sociological factors, i.e., schooling outside the community, high infant mortality rate..."<ref>ibid. p44</ref>

4. Economic factors

  • occupations and income
    • work
      • what is the main form of work
      • how do people earn money
      • average income
      • difficulties associated with earning an income
    • local production
      • what goods are produced
      • what food crops are produced
      • what cash crops are produced
    • wealth
      • what forms of wealth are there (animals, wives, gold)
      • how is wealth acquired
      • who acquires wealth
      • how is wealth stored/displayed/spent
    • what do people buy/exchange
    • how and where are goods distributed and/or sold
    • how are sellers compensated
    • services
      • what services are exchanged
      • how is compensation made for these services
    • who works on different projects
      • do people work together
      • do different ages/sexes work together
      • what kinds of work are only done by men/women
      • do people give labour as a form of payment
      • do people expect to be paid for mental or physical labour
    • time
      • how is time divided between men and women
      • what is the daily or yearly pattern of work and leisure for men/women/children
  • Resources
    • what financial help for development may come from outside or within the area
    • what other help might be available
    • are there resources available from any cultural or development associations organised by members of the language group either inside or outside the area


"The drive to survive or even to provide for a standard of living that is acceptable to the community is very strong and often takes precedence over other motivating forces... Where peopl eare genuinely hurting because of economic factors, this may be an area that needs to be taken care of before other aspects of [a development] program will appear relevant to them."<ref>ibid. p45</ref>

"In one West African project, two teachers had to be appointed to each class because no one expected to work alone on a project."<ref>ibid. p47</ref>

some of the areas where economics may affect [a development] program:

  • it may determine how much time and resources people are prepared to spend developing literacy/numeracy
  • it may affect a literature program because of lack of funds to buy materials
  • there may be a greater need for some to learn marketing skills and thus numeracy may be a priority over other forms of literacy
  • it will determine who contributes to sustaining a community and thus who is available for language development

5. Society and culture

This is a vital section for a number of reasons

  • it helps us to grasp relationships within the community
  • we can understand structures and authority patterns
  • it helps us judge motivation for the project
  • it helps us avoid inappropriacy in our approach to development or our methodology

A. Focus of the Culture

  1. what aspects of life form the focus of the culture, e.g., prestige, group conformity, reciprocality, individuality, etc.

B. Problems and felt needs

  1. what are the problems and felt needs as expressed by the people themselves. Participatory methods can often help to reveal these.
  2. are the people looking to outside help to help meet their needs
  3. how much initiative for meeting needs or getting help comes from within the language group
  4. are there ways in which a language program might meet the felt needs of the group
  5. do the community recognise how literacy or literature in their language might meet their needs
  6. are there any areas of their lives where people recognise that they are disadvantaged if they are not able to read or write
  7. what significant dietary, medical or other health problems exist
  8. who sees these health problems and is anything being done to alleviate or prevent them

C. Activities of the target group

  1. are there any seasonal/daily/regular activities which would affect a program - if so note which members of the community take part
  2. art
    1. what part do art forms play in the culture (music, dance, drama, painting etc)
    2. who are the artisans
    3. what forms of art are un/acceptable

D. Cross-cultural contexts

  1. are there any tensions between the group and neighbouring groups? How is this dealt with?
  2. what is the level of cross-cultural tension?
  3. what is the attitude towards outsiders?
  4. in what ways has culture been influenced by outsiders? How receptive is the group to these influences?
  5. what degree of local emphasis or exclusiveness is there? Do people maintain their cultural identity versus that of others?

E. Reaction to change

  1. who are the innovators
  2. how do innovators introduce new ideas
  3. how do people react to innovation
  4. who accepts change first
  5. what dangers does change hold
  6. what attitudes accompany change

F. Infrastructure and leadership

  1. what kinds of authority/social structures are there (traditional/political/religious)
  2. what are the geographical and sociocultural boundaries of each infrastructure
    1. what are their areas of influence
    2. how do they overlap
    3. how do they interact
  3. for each type of infrastructure
    1. who makes decisions
    2. how are these made
    3. who do the decisions affect
    4. how are decisions implemented
  4. factions
    1. are there factions
    2. how are tensions resolved within the community
  5. does one person/group have absolute power
  6. how are people orientated, e.g., to their community, family, etc.
  7. who could effectively influence motivation and opinion


"In one PNG village... where there were different clans present within the same village, the school system had to be arranged along clan lines or the children would not come."<ref>ibid. p48</ref>

"For one group in Brazil, an artist pictured a pig being led along the trail with a cord tied around its neck. This was completely unacceptable for a primer because the people dragged pigs with cords tied to their hind legs."<ref>ibid. p48</ref>

"The people among whom we worked in Brazil had no felt need for better sanitation in the village, although we felt it would solve a great many health problems..."<ref>ibid. p48</ref>

"In some areas... the [language] group has purposely taught [development workers] incorrect forms of the language until they have established themselves as friends."<ref>ibid. p50</ref>

6. External relationships/political factors

  1. government (provincial/national) attitudes to local languages
    1. how is the language policy worked out in any school or adult programmes sponsored by the government
  2. local people's attitudes to the government
    1. what would help people integrate into the national scene
  3. what is the chain of command by which decisions made at national/provincial level are implemented at village level
    1. how effective is this
  4. local people
    1. who are the local people who you must relate to and interact with
    2. what degree of cooperation can you expect from local people
  5. what societal/political considerations or local problems at national level, locally or in relations to other groups might affect development
  6. in what ways does information come to the group
  7. are there any local pressure groups urging certain kinds of change

7. Linguistic and Sociolinguistic factors

A. Language use and attitudes

  1. what languages are in use as mother tongues in the area
  2. what other languages are used by the group
  3. what proportion of adults are monolingual, subordinate bilingual or coordinate bilingual.
  4. in what domains is each language used
  5. what is the attitude and how is this shown to each language
  6. how stable is the language situation
  7. which languages are permitted to be used in non/formal education
  8. which dialect is spoken in each community
  9. what is the prestige dialect
  10. has a dialect been chosen for literacy or other form of standardisation
  11. what is the attitude of the community an standard dialect
  12. will the whole community be able to use the same written materials

B. Orthography

  1. what orthographies have been produced
  2. who contributed to their development
  3. what is the status of the orthography in which it is proposed to develop literacy materials
  4. who developed it
  5. what still needs to be done for orthography to be approved by
    1. all leaders and groups in the area
    2. official agencies outside the area
  6. what groups have already used the orthography
  7. is there any disagreement about the orthography
  8. what to specialists consider are the problem areas of the orthography


"Many communities are so used to education in a trade or national language that they find the idea of a literature in their own language both strange and inapppropriate... It is tremendously important that we understand what the attitudes are to the use of the vernacular and what the motivation might be for wanting to read it."<ref>ibid. p55</ref>

"Where others have already reduced the language to writing and have already developed alphabets and literatures using them, there is potential for considerable conflict. It is not uncommon to find that several alphabets have already been in use by different agencies, and each feels that his is superior and is unwilling to change."<ref>ibid. p56</ref>

8. Education, literacy and literature

A. Attitudes to Education

  1. what is the attitude of traditional leaders and other opinion leaders to education for adults/children in general
  2. what would leaders like to see accomplished as the result of education
  3. what happens to students when they leave or finish school

B. Nonformal education

  1. what are the agencies or individuals who are concerned with education of local people through nonformal programmes e.g. agriculture, health, theology, etc
  2. how do these agencies view the possibility of mother tonge literacy in promiting their goals
  3. what would need to happen for a literacy programme to be integrated with the nonformal education programmes
  4. would a functional literacy programme in tandem with nonformal education meet the felt needs of the community

C. Formal education

  1. how seriously is the govt concerned with education children in this area
  2. are local attitudes preventing govt implementation of education
  3. what is the dropout rate within schools and what do the community say about the cause of this
  4. what languages do teachers speak and how might these differ from the medium of education or the language/s of the students
  5. what are all the agencies concerned with formal education in this area
  6. who makes decisions concerning educational policies and operations at local level
  7. what is the language of materials used for education
  8. how well do teachers use the medium of education
  9. for each school
    1. what is it's name and location
    2. what years does it teach
    3. what percentage of teachers/students are from the language group
    4. what proportions of students complete each year of education
    5. who pays for the school

D. Literacy Rate

  1. what is the distribution of non/semi/literacy between the sexes and different age groups
  2. are there any significant groups of the population in any one of the above categories
  3. are literacy programs in existence or planned. If so, what are the details of the languages/materials used and what kinds of success and who is it reaching

E. Educational resources

  1. what trained personnel are available for development
  2. what is the potential for additional trainees
  3. how can teachers be remunerated
  4. what local resources are available

F. Literature preferences

  1. what is the interest in reading the national/local/other language
  2. Books
    1. who owns them
    2. what languages are they in
    3. what kinds of books are they
    4. how much did they cost
  3. Media
    1. how many people have some form of communication media
    2. what do they like to listen to/watch
    3. what languages are the broadcasts in

G. Motivation

  1. what motivations are there for material or particular forms of literacy
  2. what communication forms do the people use/desire to use
  3. what particular groups of the community desire literacy
  4. what are their reasons for doing so
  5. who are the influential people in the language group

H. Traditional education

  1. what skills/topics are consciously taught
  2. what skills/topics are taugt by verbal explanation
  3. who is taught and at what age
    1. would younger ever teach older
    2. are there any social barriers for adults teaching adults of the opposite sex
  4. who teaches different topics/skills
  5. what is the period of instruction
  6. how is the teaching/learning done - what is deemed successful
  7. are there any rewards for the educator
  8. how is motivation to learn inspired
  9. when do parents start to talk to their children and how

I. Mother tongue literature

  1. describe what materials have already been produced in the mother tongue (title, author, date, producer, motivation, distributor, number of copies available, popularity, revisions needed or done)
  2. who is already producing materials in this language
  3. what titles are planned
  4. what titles do the local community desire

J. Mother tongue writers

  1. who are the creative writers in the community
  2. who could be trained as writers

K. Production

  1. what are the local means of production if any
  2. are there any steps of production that local people could do or be trained/equipped to do
  3. what provisions are there for revisions or reprints of popular materials

L. Promotion

  1. how can literature be promoted

M. Distribution

  1. how can new literature be distributed
  2. what happens to money from sales
  3. is there a workable system
  4. how can the system be improved


"It is very important to remember which language is in focus when talking about attitudes toward education."<ref>ibid. p57</ref>

"It is highly likely that there will be some difference between attitudes to adult education and that for children."<ref>ibid. p58</ref>

"Politics often override other factors. Where a group is needing more prestige, sometimes devlelopment of a local language in written form... accomplishes this. It has been reported that in the Pacific islands [language development] is welcome in many language groups not because people really want to read... but because of the prestige it brings to the group."<ref>ibid. p58</ref>

"In the evaluation of the Southern Sudan Bilingual Education Program, it was foudn taht although parents said that they valued weducation and they wanted schools, they did not send their children to school regularly and were not concerned at high absenteeism throughout the semester."<ref>ibid. p60</ref>

"The level of education in the area may give us a clue to the level of bilingualism that can be expected among the educated. It will also be an indicator of the educational background we might expect from co-translators and literacy co-workers in the project."<ref>ibid. p60</ref>

9. Religion

  1. what other agencies have been at work in the area and what programs have they run
  2. what religious influences have their been in the community and what is predominant now
  3. what are the attitudes of the religous leaders towards development

A. Actual religious situation

  1. what is the traditional religion
  2. what percentage of the population follows each religion in the community
  3. what percentage of the population maintain traditional and new beliefs
  4. what are the places of worship
  5. how have traditional religions been influenced by present/past development
  6. what religious ceremonies or activities can be considered in planning programmes
  7. what religious groups are represented officially among the population
  8. what percentage of the people are official adherents to a particular religion
  9. what languages are used for each religious event
  10. who are the important religious authorities and what are their views of development
  11. how are religious leaders appointed and trained
  12. what cooperation is there between religious leaders


"What people believe is at the center of their world view and has some effect on all other aspects of their life."<ref>ibid. p68</ref>

"Often there will be only a portion of the society that will thoroughly embrace the new religion, while many others will maintain their traditional beliefs and customs others will syncretize the new with the old, so that in form they are Christians or Muslims, but in fact they are still continuing to follow their traditional beleifs."<ref>ibid. p68</ref>


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