Have you heard of translanguaging and wondered what it really means?

languages linguistics Apr 20, 2021

Translanguaging is an increasingly popular buzzword in education, but what does it really entail? How can monolingual teachers make use of their pupils' multilingual repertoires?

I think it's understandable that teachers who speak one language (perhaps English) might feel nervous about pupils chatting in various languages around the class. How can you know that they are on task, and understand the content? But imagine what a great buzz of productivity it would be! Children being permitted to think, process, discuss and plan their work using all of their available language is exciting!

As I understand it (I'm still learning all the time on my course at Oxford so I'll keep updating you as I learn more) translanguaging doesn't require teachers to do all that much. It's more a multilingual state of mind. Perhaps some planning of class groups would help – which language resources do your pupils have available to them? Could they work together to explore the topic, and then feed back to the class in English?

Translanguaging can extend helpfully to parents supporting their children's learning at home in the language they share. As we've said before, children's thinking skills develop with the language they know best at an age-appropriate level. So if a pupil has joined your class with little knowledge of English, they are able to think and process at a much higher level in their home language than they can appear capable of in English. Knowledge of content isn't language-specific. Output to demonstrate knowledge may need to be in English if that's the language of the final assessment, but the process can be multilingual.

What do you think, parents and teachers? Have you heard of translanguaging or similar processes? Do you use them? How do you feel about having a multilingual classroom?

Keep an eye open for our future seminar on translanguaging with Eowyn Crisfield, a real specialist in this field and executive of the EAL subject association NALDIC. It's going to be a brilliant talk with a very knowledgeable and engaging speaker!