Researching multilingually started at a very young age in my life in an informal and unconscious way. I was born in a Punjabi family; my mother spoke Punjabi (her mother tongue) to me and my sisters. But the outside world was different; we were living in the north of Pakistan where the dominant language was Pushto (the local regional language), which I also learned. In the house we used to speak Urdu (the national language) and English, since my father was a professor of English in the university and encouraged us to speak English. Fluid codes-switching came naturally in such an environment.
In my academic life when I was doing my master in Applied Linguistics from the University of Durham UK, where Dr. Julian Edge was my supervisor, I became aware of the theories of language and complexities of second language acquisition and learning. I was fluent in English because of my educational experiences in school, college and university where English was a medium of instruction and all the subjects were taught in English.
During my doctoral studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada, when I came back to my country for data collection I became more aware of the complexities in the researching multilingually. During the study I struggled with huge amount of data that I collected for narrative inquiry some of which was in English, some in Urdu and some in mixture of both which I labeled ‘Minglish’. It was a great concern for me as a researcher how to present the data so that the meaning of what is being said is not lost. I tried to conduct the interviews in English. Since both the participants were teachers of English, I thought they would be able to express themselves in English, but that was not the case. The teacher from a private English-medium school spoke English in the first interview, after which she spoke Minglish most of the time. The teacher from public Urdu-medium school from the first interview spoke mostly in Urdu and in Minglish. I did not press too hard to make them speak in English, because I wanted them to be comfortable in expressing their ideas and in telling stories of learning and teaching in Urdu or Minglish. I later translated only the relevant portions into English.
I finished my doctoral studies in 2003 however; my quest for finding ways in which data could be best represented is under study. To date, I have conducted many research studies in Pakistan and faced the same issues of translating data. Recently I wrote a research paper based on my reflective journal and have submitted it to an international journal. This research paper entitled: Reflections on experiences of translating research focuses of on the challenges of translating the research data from three perspectives: First, translation from one language to another; second, translation and representation of the data and third, translation of the stories emerging from the data and situating them in a social context. This reflective paper presents the inside view of my challenges which might be of interest to other researchers conducting qualitative research. I have also mentioned the complexities of translating research data in a book chapter Bashiruddin, A. (2011) Auto/biographical Research in the South: a lived experience. In Halai, A and William, D. (Eds.) Research Methodologies of the South. Karachi, Oxford University Press.
I am currently working at Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Karachi, Pakistan which is a private international university as a teacher educator and researcher. Here my role provides me with opportunities of communicating with colleagues and students about the complexities of multilingual context and learning of English. Recently, I have submitted a bid to the British Academy with Dr. Richard Fay, Lecturer in Education at the University of Manchester UK entitled: Developing narrative research methodology to explore teacher and learner understandings of the English language classroom in multilingual Pakistan.