Doing Research Multilingually: the Durham seminar

This two-day, exploratory seminar finally took place on 7th and 8th July in the School of Education at the University of Durham. It was, in keeping with the ‘exploratory’ character of the discussions, a small event. Here is a list of participants and their contact emails.

In some ways, the topic of this seminar can be understood to be a subset of the following, somewhat broader ‘umbrella’ formulation: “the life-long developing researcher competence of all those involved in research” (e.g. doctoral students, supervisors, examiners, participants, interpreters, translators, and so on). For more on the initial positioning of the seminar focus, see Richard’s powerpoint.

On way of understanding the contributions at this event is in terms of the following categorisation (imagine three concentric circles although this may be a somewhat static image for a set of more dynamic relationships between the three areas of insight below):

1. The studies themselves – this group of contributions involved the actual details of doctoral research studies undertaken / being undertaken multilingually.

2. Methodological Commentary on these studies – here, the researchers above reflected on some of the methodological affordances and complexities (note: I am using both terms ‘affordances’ and ‘complexities’ in a somewhat lay sense) of being multilingual researchers and/or doing their researcher multilingually.

3. Broader Perspectives – here, there were disciplinary contributions (mainly from Translation Studies and  Linguistics (semantics)) offering broader insights into the issues raised by the above (mainly doctoral) contributors.


It may be that the reflections of supervisors’ might also be of value, as a further enrichment of the second circle above and/or as a continuation of the broader perspectives in the 3rd circle. As and when there are some supervisor reflections, they will appear here.


Using the above framing image to sequence the contributions, here are some further details of what was presented in the seminar:

[1 + 2] Presentations of research undertaken multilingually and refections on the research methodology affordances and complexities of doing research of this kind

We began with four presentations in which the research undertaken multilingually by a researcher using their own multilingual resources:

  • Reflections on doing research bilingually: focusing on processing and presenting the EFL teachers’ stories in Chinese and English (Tzu-Hsuan Liu, University of Manchester) — powerpoint
  • Analyzing native and non-native ethnographic interviews (Shu-Hsin Chen, Durham University) — powerpoint
  • Walking the less trodden path: An account of bilingual research experiences (Mariam Attia, University of Manchester) — powerpoint
  • Implications of undertaking research bi-/multi-lingually: extra resources and responsibilities (Xiaowei Zhou, University of Manchester) — powerpoint

We then enriched our discussions with presentations of two studies, each involving a multilingual dimension but being conducted by researchers without competence in (some of) the languages being used in the study (thus raising issues regarding the use of interpreters / translators as co-researchers):

  • Researching learning in children’s homes: some benefits and challenges of working with an interpreter (Jane Andrews, University of the West of England) — powerpoint
  •  [title to follow] (Brendan Paddison, York St John University) — powerpoint to follow


We have since had an additional input from Genevoix Nana at the Open University (see the responses below to this posting). If we get any further contributions from those who could not attend these will be added to our material here using the same  comments strategy.


[3] Presentations raising broader perspectives on the linguistic aspects of undertaking research multilingually

  • Communication styles, Intercultural Exchanges and Translation (Alain Wolf, University of East Anglia) — a contribution which Alain saw as more exploratory in character than some of the cases / reflections above, i.e. his was a “a contribution of a ‘philosophical/ second order’ nature”.
  • Conceptual frameworks: what we (perhaps) take for granted when researching across languages (Jane Woodin) — powerpoint
  • Discovering the process of translation with triangulation model: A discussion based on English-Chinese Translation (Binghan Zheng) — powerpoint


Although the flip-chart summary notes may be not immediately intelligible to those readers who were not at this event, we provide them also.


Here is the developing Doing Research Multilingually Bibliography related to our seminar them – as collated from various sources, cheifly Shu


So, for participants, the main follow activities for you to be thinking about becoming involved in or not are as follows (items in bold were added later than the main listing):

a) sending me the artefacts from the seminar for uploading here;

b) indicating if and when you might be willing to develop / write up your presentation;

c) providing any additional items for our developing Bibliography

d) indicating if you would like to be involved in any input our DRM group makes for the MOSAIC seminars at Birmingham;

e) indicating if you would like to be involved in any BAAL-symposium type event next year (e.g. at the BAAL main event at UWE in Bristol in September 2011);

f) indicating if you would like to work towards some kind of individualised publication in this DRM area – e.g. a review of general ‘How to do a PhD’ books with regard to this DRM topic);

g) indicating if you would like to work towards some kind of collective publication in this area;

h) indicating if you would like to be involved in an exploration of ESRC (eg funding? coverage under research training curricula?) possibilities in this DRM area;

and, did I miss anything else off the list Mike enumerated for us?


  • Richard Fay

    The good news is that the editors of the International Journal of Applied Linguistics have responded positively to the proposal so we can now take it a further step forward.

  • Richard Fay

    20th August — Stop Press

    We – Jane Andrews, Prue Holmes and myself – have now approached the International Journal of Applied Linguistics to see if they would be interested in a Special issue on the DRM theme which builds on and extends the work presented in Durham last month. More on this approach as soon as we have it.

  • Richard Fay

    Given the context of our research seminar, I thought the following message (from Jane Speedy at CeNTral at Bristol University) is very interesting:

    “I know that many of you will want to join me in congratulating Dr Ying Lin Hung who successfully defended her EdD dissertation yesterday. Her dissertation has made an important contribution to methodological innovation within ‘CeNTraL’ by using (and adapting to dual English/Chinese written forms) collective biography methods to interrogate the shifting and diaspora identities of Taiwanese people living and working in the UK.”

    I have contacted her and find out more so, if and when there is more to say, I will add it here.

  • Richard Fay

    An interested colleague, Leah Davcheva – who has, amongst other things connected with Durham, interculturally explored stories of supervisors’ experience – has read the above Seminar postings and writes:
    I went through your blog and document on the Durham meeting. I wondered whether you (pl) touched on the point of multicultural research too? It seems to me that the step from considering multilingual research to considering multicultural is easy to make. I can see how well it can fit into the researcher competence concept. But perhaps you wanted to stay focused, one competence at a time?