Moving Towards Translanguaging: Service-Learning That Leverages Emerging Bilinguals' Linguistic Development

Moving Towards Translanguaging: Service-Learning That Leverages Emerging Bilinguals' Linguistic Development

Mara R. Barbosa (Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1962-2.ch009


Emerging bilinguals at US schools are generally subject to programs that are inadequate for their learning needs. It is crucial to find teaching models through which they can develop their academic language skills. This chapter presents the program Learn from the Experts, a partnership between a university and a high school, that fosters collaboration between Spanish and English learners. In this program, which follows the translanguaging pedagogy, Spanish learners from the university meet to collaborate with Spanish heritage English learners from the high school in lessons designed to develop each of the participants' skills in the language they are learning. The chapter also presents pedagogical changes made to the program resulting from the program team's reflection. It contributes to the development of models that support emerging bilinguals' language learning through collaboration with more experienced speakers without compelling speakers of minoritized languages to distance themselves from their languages and cultures.
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Despite the strong presence of bilinguals and emerging bilinguals in Texas, programs designed to support the bilingual development of students in Texas public schools are still insufficient to support these students (Collier, 1995; García & Sylvan, 2011). In Texas, emerging bilinguals constituted 16.9% of school-age children in 2008-09. By 2018-19, the percentage had grown to 19.4%, a 14.4% increase (Texas Education Agency, 2019). Due to the increase in percentage of emerging bilingual children in Texas, schools, together with their communities, need to find solutions for the lack of programs, resources, and equipped and qualified personnel to support these students’ academic development. The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, it presents a model developed in the service-learning program Learn from the Experts, a partnership between a university and a high school in South Texas intended to foster collaboration between Spanish and English learners and provide the support emerging bilinguals need in their language learning processes, which are not always available to them. Second, it describes how the program and its team have matured concerning their pedagogical choices, which were informed by careful observation of the students’ learning processes and the literature on bilingual development.

For the academic year 2018-19, only 44% of the students identified as bilingual or ESL (English as a Second Language) learners were enrolled in some kind of bilingual education program (Texas Education Agency, 2019). Valenzuela (1999) explains that many of these students are pushed out of the school system after being kept in programs that only teach them isolated vocabulary and grammar. For these students to succeed at school, they need knowledge about and experience with the academic language used as the medium of instruction (Menken & Kleyn, 2010). However, they also need support to develop this knowledge and experience in a manner that respects and leverages their actual linguistic practices (García, Sylvan & Witt, 2011; García & Wei, 2014; García, Johnson & Seltzer, 2017). Prior research supports this idea, finding that heritage language proficiency is related to bilinguals' academic achievement in English (Cummins, 2000; Ramirez, Ramey & Yuen, 1991; Thomas & Collier, 1997, 2002). Therefore, schools need to provide bilingual students with resources that they can use to develop their full linguistic repertoire. However, as many scholars have confirmed, schools are not equipped and teachers are not trained to support their students' bilingual development (Delpit, 1995; Valdés, 2001; Valenzuela, 1999). The model presented in this chapter has potential to support emerging bilinguals in their language learning through collaboration with more experienced speakers, which can fill in the gaps of an educational system lacking well-equipped and qualified instructors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Service-Learning: A method of incorporating community outreach into educational experiences. Through SL, students may gain further understanding of and experience in their fields of study while addressing needs identified in their communities and gaining greater awareness of social responsibility through the guided reflections of their experiences.

Bilinguals: Bilinguals are a group of speakers whose skills vary significantly. It is an extremally heterogeneous group whose skills in each artificially separated language that they speak is not equal or balanced.

Emerging Bilinguals (EB): Also known as emergent bilinguals, emerging bilinguals are those students who are at different stages of their linguistic development, but are generally at earlier stages of their linguistic development in one of their languages. These terms are used as a rejection of the earlier deficit-oriented view that classified these students as ELLs (English Language Learners) or ESL (English as a Second Language).

Translanguaging: This term refers both to an approach to understanding bi/multilinguals’ language use and a pedagogy that seeks to leverage bi/multilingual speakers language use in their language development and education in general. According to a translanguaging view, bi/multilingual speakers never shut down the features associated with one societally constructed language. They conform to the social constraints of language naming and separation according to the socially created restrictions and create new practices that are complex, dynamic, fluid, and sensitive to context.

Minoritized Languages: Languages whose speakers endure prejudice and lack of prestige. The term ‘minoritized’ expresses better the situation of, for example, Spanish speakers in the US because this situation is forced upon them.

Experienced Bilinguals: This term is used to differentiate speakers whose linguistic skills are more advanced than those of emerging bilinguals. These speakers are generally confident in using their home languages as well as the language of the school.

Bilingual Programs: A group of different models to educate emerging and/or experienced bilinguals. These programs are commonly divided according to their final goal. Programs whose objective is not to preserve students’ first language are considered subtractive, and those that seek to support speakers’ bilingual and biliterate development are considered additive.

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