It is quite often to see or hear similar phrases from teachers all over the world. Many might think that the elimination of other languages, especially students’ home languages, from the classroom communication helps students be more efficient in learning the target language, and even more might agree that this language separation approach is useful. Well, it depends on the perspective.
Indeed, if one looks at language from an external perspective of nation-state policies, then language separation makes sense because it helps to sustain the existent social hierarchies that, in fact, can cause injustice in relation to minoritised speakers. But if one takes an internal perspective of a speaker, the language separation approach makes no sense. In the speaker’s brain, languages are not separated into isolated boxes. On the contrary, they constitute a single, fluid linguistic repertoire from which the speaker selects relevant features to communicate; in other words, they translanguage (Otheguy et al., 2015). Because of its emphasis on the importance of all features of the speaker’s linguistic repertoire, translanguaging can wreck the unjust hierarchical relationships that privilege the speakers of certain languages over the others (Vogel & García, 2017), which is especially visible in education.
For teachers who strive to provide all children in the classroom with just education, the application of translanguaging pedagogy will be useful. In general terms, translanguaging pedagogy means that the teacher helps the child to activate their linguistic repertoire and use it for the maximum developmental and communicational profit (Vogel & García, 2017). To do this, the teacher needs to believe in the value and usefulness of the child’s linguistic repertoire, integrate it in the lessons, for example, in the form of activities in the child’s home language, and be ready to make the on-the-spot changes to the lesson, for example, to encourage the child through translanguaging (Vogel & García, 2017). To be successful in translanguaging pedagogy, the teacher does not necessarily need to be fluent in all languages of the children; in highly multilingual classrooms like the ones in Luxembourg it is simply impossible. Having a positive stance on the child’s fluid linguistic repertoire, designing the lessons with translanguaging activities beforehand, and leaving some space for the translanguaging shifts during the lessons will make a big difference for linguistic, cognitive, and socio-emotional development of multilingual students. After all, as Ignacio Estrada said, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”. And that is exactly what translanguaging pedagogy does.
Otheguy, R., García, O., & Reid, W. (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281-307.
Vogel, S., & García, O. (2017). Translanguaging. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.
The development of the child’s ability to write and read—literacy—is one of the primary aims of every teacher. Indeed, writing and reading are the cornerstones of the child’s further language development, and usually, much effort is put to develop them in the child from an early age on. When a teacher works in a multilingual classroom, a special task comes into the agenda which is to develop multilingual children’s biliteracy—skills to communicate in two or more languages in or around writing (Hornberger, 2004).
Understandably, more languages may add confusion to the ordinary ways of monolingual literacy development that most teachers are so used to. To avoid this confusion, ideally, teachers would need to understand what biliteracy is. It is important to look at it not as a stable and rigid structure that can be decomposed into language A literacy and language B literacy. Biliteracy should be rather seen as a fluid set of interrelated continua of skills, knowledge, and experiences of the child’s written languaging (Hornberger, 2004). There are twelve continua that can be arranged under four interrelated spaces: development of biliteracy in the child (continua of reception-production, oral-written, first-second languages), content of biliteracy (continua of minority-majority, vernacular-literary, contextualised-decontextualized content), media of biliteracy (continua of simultaneous-successive exposure, dissimilar-similar structures, divergent-convergent scripts), and context of biliteracy (continua of micro-macro, oral-literate, bi/multilingual-monolingual contexts; Hornberger, 2004). At a certain point of development, the child has specific positions on all twelve continua. Because of the interrelated nature, when biliteracy development occurs, the child’s positions shift towards certain endpoints in all continua, making biliteracy very dynamic (Hornberger, 2004).
Although it seems quite complex in theory, the continua of biliteracy model (Hornberger, 2004) has clear practical application. Ideally, teachers need to help multilingual children reach every end of the continua. It is also advisable to have the less powerful ends of the continua first in mind. For example, teachers need to put emphasis on the child’s first language over the second one, minority language content over the majority language one, translanguaging over language separation approach to language exposure, the micro context of home over the macro context of society. The attention to less powerful ends can have important positive consequences for multilingual children’s school success as it breaks the unjust language hierarchies.
Hornberger, N. H. (2004). The continua of biliteracy and the bilingual educator:
Educational linguistics in practice. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7(2&3), 155–171.