Summary and Keywords
Translanguaging is a theoretical lens that offers a different view of bilingualism and multilingualism. The theory posits that rather than possessing two or more autonomous language systems, as has been traditionally thought, bilinguals, multilinguals, and indeed, all users of language, select and deploy particular features from a unitary linguistic repertoire to make meaning and to negotiate particular communicative contexts. Translanguaging also represents an approach to language pedagogy that affirms and leverages students’ diverse and dynamic language practices in teaching and learning.
Translanguaging theory builds on scholarly work that has demonstrated how colonial and modernist-era language ideologies created and maintained linguistic, cultural, and racial hierarchies in society. It challenges prevailing theories of bilingualism/multilingualism and bilingual development in order to disrupt the hierarchies that have delegitimized the language practices of those who are minoritized.
Translanguaging concepts have been deepened, built upon, or clarified as scholars have compared and contrasted them with competing and complementary theories of bilingualism. Scholars debate aspects of the theory’s definition and epistemological foundations. There are also continued debates between scholars who have largely embraced translanguaging and those who resist the theory’s premises or have accepted them only partially.
The use of translanguaging in education has created the most interest, and yet the most disagreement. Many educators working on issues of language education—the development of additional languages for all, as well as minoritized languages—have embraced translanguaging theory and pedagogy. Other educators are weary of the work on translanguaging. Some claim that translanguaging pedagogy pays too much attention to the students’ bilingualism; others worry that it could threaten the diglossic arrangements and language separation traditionally posited as necessary for language maintenance and development.
Translanguaging as a sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic theory has much to offer to our understandings of the languaging of bilinguals because it privileges bilingual performances and not just monolingual ones. As a pedagogical practice, translanguaging leverages the fluid languaging of learners in ways that deepen their engagement and comprehension of complex content and texts. In addition, translanguaging pedagogy develops both of the named languages that are the object of bilingual instruction precisely because it considers them in a horizontal continua as part of the learners’ linguistic repertoire, rather than as separate compartments in a hierarchical relationship.
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