2010 July – Exploratory Seminar, Durham

This two-day, exploratory seminar took place on 7th and 8th July in the School of Education at Durham University. It was, in keeping with the ‘exploratory’ character of the discussions, a small event. Here is the text from the flyer advertising this event:

Many researchers, both doctoral and post-doc, collect and/or generate data in one or more languages and present them in another. Such multilingual possibilities create both affordances and complexities but often the issues involved remain hidden and unspoken. This is partly a matter of translation: sometimes researchers analyse and then translate, sometimes they translate and analyse, and sometimes a combination of the two. The multilingual complexities also occur when, for example, researchers work with interpreters or other research facilitators, when they decide on the analytical procedures, and when drawing on literature in a variety of languages.

In this small meeting – based on work at Durham and Manchester Schools of Education – we shall hear of researchers’ experience and data – and what decisions they made vis-à-vis the multilingual dimension of their work. The seminar context means that the initial focus is on supervised research in English-medium universities but the meeting is exploratory with a view to a more substantial seminar at a later date.*

We invite anyone interested in joining the meeting to write to us to explain their interest and how they might contribute at this stage.

Richard Fay (Manchester) and Mike Byram (Durham)

* This ambition was first realised through the September 2001 Colloquium on DRM offered at the Annual Meeting of the British Association of Applied Linguists (BAAL) hosted by the University of the West of England in Bristol. It is now being further realised through this one-year AHRC research network project (commencing November 2011).

Discussion of the event

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, chiefly Shu.