Language history questionnaire (LHQ 2.0): A new dynamic web-based research tool

Ping Li - August 2014Post written by Ping Li based on a recent article in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Language history question-naire (LHQ) is an important tool for assessing the linguistic background of language learners (background), the context and habits of language use (usage), proficiency in multiple languages (proficiency), and dominance and cultural identity of the acquired languages (dominance). Outcomes from such assessments have often been used to predict or correlate with learners’ linguistic performance in cognitive and behavioral tests. Previous researchers have often relied on LHQs that their own research groups develop, depending on whether their study is concerned with the background, usage, proficiency, or dominance of the bilingual learner. The lack of a standardized, easy-to-use, and web-based LHQ inspired some researchers to develop such a tool for bilingual research (see Li, Sepanski, & Zhao, 2006). In the LHQ 2.0, we have further developed an enhanced interface that takes advantage of the dynamic web technology, which has the following new features as compared with the original LHQ: more flexibility in functionality, more accuracy in data recording and retrieval, and more privacy for users and data.

With respect to flexibility, LHQ 2.0 allows researchers to customize their own questions depending on whether they are interested in one or a combination of the participant’s language history: background, usage, proficiency, and dominance. Additionally, the participants can complete the entire or customized LHQ online with unique experiment and participant IDs. LHQ 2.0 also has a multi-language function that allows the participant to complete questions in the native or the preferred language, including English, Chinese (simplified or traditional forms), Spanish, French, German, and Turkish (and more to come). Thus, investigators can dynamically construct individualized LHQs on the fly and collect data from a large number of individual participants simultaneously.

With respect to accuracy, LHQ 2.0 eliminates the need of traditional data entry with papers and pencils, and the potential errors during the time-consuming manual coding of handwritten results. Once the participant completes the LHQ, all the data are stored automatically in a spreadsheet, and the data are accumulated (and updated) in the order in which the questions are answered. Investigators can track the progress of the LHQ data collection, and download or delete the data at any point during the study.

With respect to privacy, LHQ 2.0 stores no personal information of the participant but rather, collects the data through automatically generated unique ID numbers for each study (and the participants), and through password-protected access to data. Researchers can (1) access their data in the cloud uniquely stored in their own account, (2) update necessary information associated with the study, (3) retrieve the data, and finally, (4) at the conclusion of the study, delete the data permanently.

A large number of investigators have already used the LHQ 2.0 in the past year, and we welcome comments and suggestions from all users. Please visit http://blclab.org/language-history-questionnaire/ and use the LHQ 2.0 today!

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