Adopting an ‘exploratory action research’ design and drawing primarily on a reflective journal and interviews, this study recounts the process of supporting first-year Applied Languages students (learning French, German and Spanish) as they started to engage in language research. Certain challenges they faced in engaging with the inquiry-based learning were apparent at the outset, while others emerged; these were addressed in the spirit of ‘exploratory practice’. Our narrative account is structured around key themes. These are subsequently the focus of our discussion, which highlights the process-oriented actions that arose from our developing understandings and the future actions still required. Conclusions focus on the benefits gained by learners and teachers.