Creating Space for Dynamic Language Use: Cultivating Literacy Development through Translanguaging Pedagogy in EAL Classrooms

Creating Space for Dynamic Language Use: Cultivating Literacy Development through Translanguaging Pedagogy in EAL Classrooms

Georgios Neokleous (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway), Koeun Park (University of Utah, USA) and Anna Krulatz (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2722-1.ch028


With English as an Additional Language (EAL) classrooms increasingly becoming culturally and linguistically diverse, the use of the students' home language(s) (HLs) can equip emergent bilinguals/multilinguals with the essential accoutrements that optimize their learning experience. To meet the realities and demands of contemporary classrooms, current research encourages teachers to make use of the students' entire linguistic repertoires and create space for a fluid and dynamic oscillation between the HL(s) and the target language (TL), which has been labelled as translanguaging pedagogy. Despite the constraints imposed by today's education policies, translanguaging is believed to have the potential to enhance the teaching of these students. Through the description of activities, this chapter discusses how taking up translanguaging theory can contribute towards fostering meaningful and affirming ways of teaching and learning EAL literacy.
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In traditional foreign language (FL) classrooms, a long-standing practice has been to optimize the use of a target language (TL) and to limit the use of students’ home languages (HLs). For this reason, many language and literacy educators often create a rather strict environment where only the TL should be used in the classroom, such as English-only classrooms, while prohibiting the use of students’ home languages (García & Kleyn, 2016; Hall & Cook, 2012). However, such strict language policy in classrooms may end up impeding students’ learning (e.g., Auerbach, 1993). To reverse such practices, translanguaging pedagogy stresses the importance of affirming the value of HLs and offers meaningful ways to engage students in developing language and literacy skills by strategically incorporating students’ dynamic and fluid linguistic practices.

The term translanguaging was first introduced to denote the pedagogical practice in Welsh bilingual schools where learners received input in one language and produced output in another language. García (2012) reconceptualized the term translanguaging to mean “bilinguals hav[ing] one linguistic repertoire from which they select features strategically to communicate effectively” (p. 1). In other words, García and her colleagues posit that bilinguals/multilinguals (used interchangeably throughout) have one linguistic system where they draw on certain linguistic features that belong to named languages in order to communicate (e.g., García & Li Wei, 2014). Such linguistic practices of bilinguals/multilinguals are often recognized in the literature as codemixing or codeswitching, which describes switching a single word in a sentence or switching from one sentence to the next (Baker & Wright, 2017). However, García and other translanguaging scholars have criticized these two terms on the grounds that they originate in and perpetuate the monoglossic ideology which views bilinguals/multilinguals as drawing from two separate named languages (bilingualism being a sum of two discrete languages) instead of having their own unique and fluid linguistic repertoire that consists of various linguistic features (e.g., García & Li Wei, 2014; Otheguy, García, & Reid, 2015). Thus, in a sense, the difference between code-switching and translanguaging is rather ideological (Lewis, Jones, & Baker, 2012) because one may label a bilingual person’s linguistic practice as code-switching or translanguaging based on their linguistic ideology. Why then is it important to take such an ideological turn in the understanding of bilingualism/multilingualism? García and Kleyn (2016) reason that from the ideological conceptualization of translanguaging emerges a new understanding that “[t]he features of a bilingual’s repertoire simply belong to the bilingual speakers themselves who have one language system, and not to the languages” (García & Kleyn, 2016, p. 14). That is, translanguaging allows us to prioritize the speakers and their practices and subordinate the named languages (see also Moody, Matthews, & Eslami in this volume).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Target Language: The language that students are learning other than the language(s) students have at their disposal for everyday interactions at home.

Active Learning: An instructional method that prompts students to assume an active role in the classroom and have a catalyst role in unfolding lesson objectives.

Biliteracy: A person’s ability to read and write in two languages.

Collaborative Learning: An instructional method that prompts students to build on each other’s knowledge and skills to learn something together.

Home Language: The language that a student uses to interact with other family members for everyday interactions at home.

English as an Additional Language (EAL): The teaching and learning of English to students whose home language is not English.

Translanguaging: The dynamic and fluid linguistic practice that bilinguals/multilinguals use in order to make sense of their world by selecting features from their linguistic repertoires.

Codeswitching: The alternation between two or more languages within or between utterances.

Student-centered Environment: A learning environment where the emphasis is placed on students’ interests and the student has a more active role in the learning process.

Translingual Practice: Communication that transcends individual languages and involves diverse semiotic resources.

Linguistic Repertoire: The set of linguistic features that bilinguals/multilinguals possess and strategically select features from in order to communicate and make meaning.

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