Ms Parneet Chahal

I am an international student from India, pursuing higher education in the UK at Masters and Doctoral level since 2008.

I am fluent in English, Punjabi, and Hindi. I belong to Punjab, where the main local language is Punjabi, and have spent a considerable amount of time in other parts of India which has helped me develop greater proficiency in my use and understanding of other languages. For example, I attended boarding school in Uttarakhand where the standard of Hindi is particularly high. I remember needing to take extra Hindi classes to be able to cope with the required standard. I then went on to do my Bachelor in Psychology in Maharashtra where the main local language is Marathi. Although I won’t classify myself as being proficient in Marathi by any standards, mainly because I haven’t studied the language academically, I can understand people’s conversations. Thus, for me, multilingualism has had an adaptive function, and my proficiency and competence have been influenced by the need and drive to understand the context better.

I first realised that I could, in the sense of having the permission to, conduct my Doctoral research multilingually when my supervisor [Richard] explained the way in which I could handle my multilingual data. Being permitted to present the data in its original language within the thesis surprised me to the extent of not believing it at first. At the risk of sounding silly, when addressing the issue about multilingual data during my mock panel [upgrade], I became fearful of being asked questions to which I had not yet found methodological answers and stated the common practice of translating data into English, thereby reluctantly adopting the dominant discourse of presenting the English translations and minimising the focus on the multilingual aspects of the data. After a second tutorial and reconfirmation, I decided to set foot on beginning to understand my experience of engaging in researching multilingually.

To understand how I am currently engaging with developing an awareness of researching multilingually, I will first need to provide a brief background about my previous experiences of research. Having developed a strong interest in wanting to support people experiencing psychological distress, I came to Keele University to study Counselling Psychology and become a Counsellor. As a part of the MSc at Keele, I pursued a Heuristic research. The deeply personal nature of Heuristic research challenged me into further developing my ability to reflexively engage with my own experience, and to be able to view it from a researcher’s and a practitioner’s perspective. Since then reflexivity continues to evolve as a strong component of my work as a practitioner and a researcher. Additionally, for my Masters research, I explored pupils’ and teachers’ definitions of bullying in India. One of the aspects of the study was to examine the meaning profiles of Hindi terms used to denote bullying behaviours. In retrospect, at the time I still did not realise the possibility of being able to allow the presence of multilingual data in such naked form in my thesis. It surprises me now that throughout my Dissertation, I did not mention the terms in Hindi even once. Instead, I wrote the Romanised version of the terms [i.e. transliteration]. I suppose I didn’t realise the extent to which multilingualism was permitted to present itself like it is in a research text. My own personal background and my reflexive use of self are contributing factors to my further engagement with researching multilingually.

For my Doctoral research I am exploring adolescent Indian Street children’s understandings of their experiences. I am hoping to gain insight into their perceptions and understandings of what their needs are and the means they employ to address those needs, and to be able to identify ways in which they can be helped. In addition, with the aim of applying myself more actively, I am exploring what we can learn as practitioners or Counselling Psychologists from the stories they tell. This will involve using myself as a practitioner-researcher or a scientist-practitioner and will form a major part of the reflexive component of my research.