Researching Multilingually (at Borders)

Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State

(AHRC Translating Cultures Large Grant) (AH/L006936/1)

2014-2017 — Richard Fay as a Co-Investigator

Initial interest in researching multilingually (RM)

Our interest in researcher thinking about the use of language(s) in research initially arose from reflections on doctoral training and supervision.[i] Of central concern then was the (surprisingly frequent) minimal level of preparedness with which researchers and supervisors approached language considerations in research where language was not necessarily the main focus.

RM Network

Building on this initial focus, a funded research network project brought together researchers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds (including explicitly language-oriented ones such as foreign language education and intercultural communication as well as ones where language is often less to the fore such as business, marketing, counselling, mental health, and Jewish studies).

The objective of the network was for researchers to share reflections on their developing attentiveness to language considerations in their research. As previously reported,[ii] we analysed their reflections noting what triggered their awareness of the possibilities for, and complexities of, undertaking research using multiple languages, and what informed the design and conduct decisions they made about language(s) in their research.

A model of researcher development re RM

From our analysis of their reflections, we proposed the following three-stage model of researcher development regarding language-oriented praxis:

  1. Realisation: a triggering moment regarding the important place language(s) may occupy in research even if the research does not have a specific linguistic focus;
  2. Consideration: the mapping out of the language possibilities and complexities (e.g. by taking stock of the linguistic aspects of the various spaces[iii] and relationships involved in the research); and
  3. Purposeful action: the making of informed decisions leading to intentional practice vis-à-vis language(s).[iv]

Intentionality (ecological thinking)

The third stage in this model uses the folk-psychological term purposefulness as drawn from ecological psychology and the notion of intentionality. Such ecological perspectives[v] have provided an important lens for our subsequent exploration of language-oriented researcher praxis.

RM at Borders (large grant)

The above network project and the insights arising from it were the starting point for the subsequent three-year (2014-17) large grant which involved case study researchers located variously in Global Mental Health, Law, Anthropology, Multilingualism Studies, and Language Education, and associated fieldwork contexts (respectively, in Glasgow and Uganda, Glasgow and the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania, Arizona, and Gaza).

The RM hub (applied linguistics resource for the project) 

We formed part of an applied linguistics team (aka ‘RM hub’) which collaborated with, supported, and sought to generate language-oriented insights with and from the case study researchers. Further, from the inception of the project there was a creative arts hub (aka ‘CA hub’) which interacted with the RM hub as well as the five case studies within the project. The creative arts dimension embedded throughout the project was – as with our RM hub focus on language considerations – an integral part of the project design.

From Researching Multilingually to ‘the Languaging of Research’

The project was not only multidisciplinary (i.e. involving researchers from different disciplines) but it also aspired to be interdisciplinary (i.e. involving researchers creating new research spaces and approaches through their collaborative endeavours). Whereas the earlier project foregrounded language considerations in research (e.g. decisions about which languages to use, when, and why), this large project also problematised the languaging of research (e.g. what are the consequences and implications of reporting the research in this or that language?).

In this regard, it is important to note that the language concerns of the applied linguistics hub members significantly shaped the project’s language foci. Thus, whilst our objective was to better understand the development of the researchers’ language-oriented praxis, we acknowledge that this development was, in part, being shaped by what we brought to the project as well as by what the researchers themselves brought to the project (e.g. their existing and developing disciplinary, professional, methodological, linguistic, personal and other experiences, practices, values, etc). We also acknowledge that the researchers and their developing praxis shaped our language-oriented theorising.

Endnote References for the above

[i] Fay, R., Zhou, X., & Liu, T-H. (2010). Undertaking narrative inquiry bilingually against a monolingual backdrop. Paper presented at Narrative Matters 2010 – Exploring the narrative landscape: Issues, investigations, and interventions conference hosted by the CIRN in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, 20th-22nd May, 2010.

[ii] Holmes, P., Fay, R., Andrews, J., & Attia, M. (2013). Researching multilingually: New theoretical and methodological directions. In International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 23(3), pp.285–299.

[iii] Davcheva, L., & Fay, R. (2012). An examination of the research and researcher aspects of multilingually researching one language (Ladino) through fieldwork in another (Bulgarian) and analysis and presentation in a third (English). Paper presented at the 1st AHRC Researching Multilingually seminar, hosted by Durham University, 28th-29th March, 2012.

[iv] Stelma, J. (2012). Intentionality, convention and fashion in researching multilingually. Paper presented at Researching Multilingually, AHRC seminar, The University of the West of England, Bristol, 25th April, 2012.

[v] Andrews, J., Fay, R., & White, R. (2018a). From linguistic preparation to developing a translingual orientation – possible implications of plurilingualism for researcher education. In J. Choi & S. Ollerhead (Eds.), Plurilingualism in learning and teaching: Complexities across contexts (pp.220-233). London: Routledge.

Andrews, J., Fay, R., & White, R. (2018b). What shapes everyday translanguaging? Insights from a global mental health research project in Northern Uganda. In G. Mazzaferro (Ed.), Translanguaging in Everyday Practice (pp.257-273). London: Springer.

Fay, R., & Stelma, J. (2016). Criticality, intentionality and intercultural action. In M. Dasli & A. Diaz (Eds.), The critical turn in language and intercultural communication pedagogy: Theory, research and practice. (pp.120-146). London: Routledge.

Stelma, J., & Fay, R. (2014). Intentionality and developing researcher competence on a UK Master’s course: An ecological perspective on research education. In Studies in Higher Education, 39(4), pp.517-533.

Stelma, J., Fay, R., & Zhou, X. (2013). Developing intentionality and researching multilingually: An ecological and methodological perspective. In International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 23(3), pp.300-315.


Published Works relating to Researching Multilingually, the Languaging of Research, and a Critical Intercultural Ethic in an era of interconnected knowledging (knowledge-work)  


  • Fay, R., Andrews, J., & Huang, Z. M. (under review). Narrowing the gap between institutional practice and aspiring praxis: Developing a critical intercultural supervisory culture in largely Anglophone HE contexts. {submitted to the Journal for Praxis in Higher Education special issue}.
  • Huang, Z. M., Fay, R., & White, R. (awaiting amendments and resubmission). Ethical knowledge-work: Addressing the dangers of epistemic injustice. {for Language Culture and Society}
  • White, R., Fay, R., Chiumento, A., Giurgi-Oncu, C., & Phipps, A. (resubmission awaiting review). Communication about well-being and distress: Epistemic and ethical considerations. {for Transcultural Psychiatry.}


  • Andrews, J., & Fay, R. (2020). Valuing a translingual mindset in researcher education in Anglophone higher education settings: Supervision perspectives. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 33(2): 188-202. {special issue on teaching and learning in Anglophone higher education settings}.
  • Andrews, J., Fay, R., Frimberger, K., Tordrzo, G., & Sithole, T. (2020). Theorising arts-based collaborative research processes. In E. Moore, J. Bradley & J. Simpson (Eds.), Translanguaging as transformation: The collaborative construction of new linguistic realities. (pp.118-134). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Andrews, J., Holmes, P., Fay, R., & Dawson, S. (2020). Researching multilingually in applied linguistics. In H. Rose & J. McKinley (Eds.), Routledge handbook of research methods in applied linguistics. (pp.76-86). London: Routledge.


  • Holmes, P., Fay, R., & Andrews, J. (Eds.) (2019). Education and migration: Languages foregrounded. London: Routledge.


  • Andrews, J., Fay, R., & White, R. (2018a). From linguistic preparation to developing a translingual orientation – possible implications of plurilingualism for researcher education. In J. Choi & S. Ollerhead (Eds.), Plurilingualism in learning and teaching: Complexities across contexts. (pp.220-233). London: Routledge.
  • Andrews, J., Fay, R., & White, R. (2018b). What shapes everyday translanguaging? Insights from a global mental health research project in Northern Uganda. In G. Mazzaferro (Ed.), Translanguaging in everyday practice. (pp.257-273). London: Springer.


  • Holmes, P., Fay, R., & Andrews, J. (2017) (Eds.) Special issue – Education and migration: Languages foregrounded. Language and Intercultural Communication, 17(4). [Introduction, pp.369-377] —- republished in 2019 as an edited book with Routledge.
  • Huang, Z.M., Fay, R., & White, R. (2017). Mindfulness and the ethics of intercultural knowledge-work. Language and Intercultural Communication, 17(1): 45-57.


  • Holmes, P., Fay, R., Andrew, J., & Attia, M. (2016). How to research multilingually: Possibilities and complexities. In Z. Hua (Ed.), Research methods in intercultural communication: A practical Guide. (pp.88-102). London: Wiley.

See also the earlier Researching Multilingually network project and the publications related to that ancestor project.