The personal wellbeing index in the South African isiXhosa translation: a qualitative focus group study
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International scholars who rely on the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) to compare cross-cultural quality of life have often been confronted with the problems of nuances getting lost in translation. This qualitative study explored the meaning of the isiXhosa version of the PWI in focus group discussions with native speakers. Participants in the study discussed how they understood and rated their lives on each item in the index. The discourse conveyed the different shades of meaning associated with the PWI items of life satisfaction and eight domains of life. The study found that PWI items related to material well-being, living standards, achievements in life and future (financial) security were best understood. The PWI items referring to personal relationships and community connectedness were seen as nearly identical in meaning. Both translation and cultural factors may be responsible for the conflation of these two items. Noteworthy is that the PWI item on religion and spirituality was seen to embrace both Christian and traditional African beliefs and practice, without prejudice. A new item on daily activities was piloted with good results. The focus group study also showcased the manner in which discussants worked with the rating scale and drew on social comparisons when evaluating global and domain satisfactions. It is concluded that cognitive testing of PWI items in different translations will serve not only to appraise the validity of PWI ratings across cultures, but importantly also opens a window on what makes for a life of quality in a particular social setting.