Translanguaging 1: Let’s get started!

Have you ever notticed that sometimes children in class use resources from different languages together, with very little regard for what languages (Spanish, Catalan or English) they are using? What they are using are, in fact, elements of each language together to communicate more effectively. It is about using all your language resources to communicate, it is translanguagingImagen relacionada

Translanguaging is the act performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic featuresorvarious modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximize communicative potential.Ofelia García (2009: 140)

It is believed it emerged in the 1980s in Bangor, north of Wales, when Cen Williams and his colleagues were investigating strategies for learners to use two languages (Welsh and English) in a single lesson. They came up with the term ‘trawsieithu’ to describe reading or hearing input in one language and writing or speaking about it in another.

There are many researches and controversial ideas towards using translanguaging in education. I really liked the following reflection, that is an analogy of the Pocahontas Disney story, which enabled me to see translanguaging power and possibilities: “Translanguaging gives students a way to use all of the language related Colours of the Wind that they have. Should a teacher encourage their students to use all of their Colours of the Wind languages in the classroom, at home, or in their community even through it is not in the curriculum?” See all the Prezi presentation to see more translanguaging examples.

That reflection drove me to think about students’ personal identity; the colours of the wind as personal facts and features of our students. As recently learned in the Culture module, cultural heritage provides a sense of unity an belonging to the society, shearing values, stories and goals from one generation to the next, encouraging groups of people to create and share a collective identity, which in turn serves to shape individual identities. Students through language can communicate to classmates, find common interests and develop then a group/class identity.

Some bilingual programmes promote more than one language to be used in class and also teach content and language at the same time, which is called CLIL. The term translanguaging is actually no stranger to CLIL. The role of L1 is also important in CLIL classes, inviting to use both the mother tongue and an additional language (which in Europe is commonly English) in the learning context. Teacher may speak in one language and a student can reply in another. Alternatively, students may work in pairs or small groups speaking through one language, while analysing content produced in another. In any case, students should have clear objectives and be aware of when they are required to use FL/L3 or not, because CLIL has a dual objective:  to learn a foreign language, so students will be evaluated on their skills and competences on that language, and to learn new content from a subject. Therefore, as I learned in the CLIL module, teachers can provide scaffolds to help students in terms of language, as well as content, to climb up the Bloom’s taxonomy pyramid to reach the higher order thinking stage, which is creating.

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