Supporting Advanced Multilingual Speakers as Individuals: Translanguaging in Writing

Supporting Advanced Multilingual Speakers as Individuals: Translanguaging in Writing

Etienne Skein (Independent Researcher, South Africa), Yvonne Knospe (Umeå University, Sweden) and Kirk P. H. Sullivan (Umeå University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2722-1.ch027


Translanguaging is a concept that is increasingly used in multilingualism studies with disparate definitions and uses in the literature. In this chapter, students who are advanced multilingual speakers at home, school, and elsewhere are in focus. The chapter examines historical and contemporary definitions of translanguaging and shows that not all definitions view the literacy practices of advanced multilingual speakers as translanguaging. However, those that see these speakers as having a unitary linguistic system allow the literacy practices of advanced multilingual speakers to be viewed as translanguaging. Working from this perspective, the chapter argues for translanguaging writing spaces to be created in schools as a way to foster learning. The chapter also presents ways in which teachers can support the creation of these spaces in multilingual classrooms and considers how translanguaging writing spaces can be maintained when advanced multilingual speakers move to writing for monolingual readers. The challenge of this move is also discussed.
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The Scope of the Chapter

Translanguaging is increasingly used in diverse and multilingual classrooms to support multilingual literacy development. That is, the use of more than one language by students is encouraged rather than restricted by single language policies such as the English-only movement. Translanguaging recognizes multilinguals as individuals who draw on all their linguistic resources to communicate.

One group that seldom figures in the translanguaging literature are multilingual speakers in school classrooms who are growing up speaking more than one language of power, i.e., languages that society perceives as advantageous for students’ future careers. These speakers are considered to be native users of their languages. Some examples of such individuals are a student growing up in Sweden using Swedish and English at home, at school, and out of school, or a student growing up in South Africa using Afrikaans and English at home, school, and elsewhere. This chapter focuses on high school classrooms with students who are such multilingual speakers, and who see it as normal, natural, and easy to use their entire language repertoire. For simplicity, in this chapter, these individuals are referred to as advanced multilingual speakers.

This chapter includes examples of how teachers can support translanguaging and translanguaging in writing for advanced multilingual speakers in the classroom. The focus of Teaching Tip 1 is upon how teachers can create translanguaging spaces (Kaufhold, 2018). When producing a multilingual text, advanced multilingual students use all their languages to think and write without the need to monitor that their final texts are in one language. In classrooms without such translanguaging spaces, these highly proficient speakers of several languages are required to use mental energy to restrict their communication to one language only. This cognitive capacity can be used more productively for learning.

Although multilingual classrooms are increasingly common, not least as these classrooms allow students to focus their cognitive capacity on learning and literacy development, there are contexts that require monolingual conversation and texts. These include writing for external assessment and for monolingual readers. Moreover, the ability to deliver texts in only one language is an important skill to learn for working life after high school and is part of the literacy skill set high schools provide their graduates. The production of such texts places greater cognitive demands on advanced multilingual speakers, as they have to check, or monitor, that their final texts are in only one language. The focus of Teaching Tip 2 is how teachers can facilitate and support final year high school students’ transition from production of multilingual to monolingual texts. We refer to this transition as Translanguaging in Writing to Writing withFeature Monitoring.

Using translanguaging systematically and pedagogically in classrooms enhances school students’ home languages and their bilingualism, helping learners to develop fluid multilingual practices which consist of proficiency in their home language(s) and a new language (see also Neokleous, Park, & Krulatz in this volume). In most of the literature to date, the focus is on contexts where translanguaging is an element of emergent bi- or multilingualism including a minority language and a dominant language (such as English). The present chapter contributes another perspective on the theoretical bases of translanguaging through support for the literacy practices of advanced multilingual speakers across the curriculum.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Advanced Multilingual Speakers: Native multilingual speakers who see it as normal, natural, and easy to use their entire language repertoire.

Feature Monitoring: When a speaker or writer monitors what they say or write so that only those features of their unitary language system are used that their interlocutor understands.

High School: Post-primary school, including pre-university non-compulsory school.

Multilingual: An individual whose unitary linguistic system includes features of more than one language.

Writing Process: The route from the first thought to the final version of a written text.

Translanguaging: When a person uses their unitary linguistic system without restriction.

Translanguaging Space: A translanguaging friendly space that both allows and encourages translanguaging.

Features: Aspects of the unitary linguistic system that allows selection of appropriate language use for the interlocutor to be able to understand what is being said/written.

Writing Product: The final version of a written text.

Computer Keystroke Logging: Computer software that logs everything a writer does on a computer during a writing session. This permits the replaying and analysis of the writing session.

Minoritized Languages: Languages that are not hegemonic. These are often Indigenous and minority languages.

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