The Linguist

The Linguist 60,3 - June/July 2021

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 35

24 The Linguist Vol/60 No/3 2021 FEATURES Calling for translingual practice, Ria Angelo argues that traditional teaching can suppress learners' identities in superdiverse contexts A ccording to Professor Henry Giroux, 1 pedagogies that impose fixed criteria on learners in the age of globalisation threaten their agency and undermine their prior knowledge and experiences – their identities. The imposition of fixed grammar rules has, for a long time, limited the identities of learners of languages, such as French and English, that have economic cachet in the global labour market. 2 Universal ways of speaking and communicating promise a high payout in transnational corporations, but there is another aspect of language that lingers in the less formal corners of the world – in malls, outdoor markets and buses – marked by language mixing and switching. 3 When transnational workers and their families cross territorial borders they bring with them a wide array of languages, and language forms that clash with the ways we currently teach languages in superdiverse contexts. Mixed and hybrid ways of using language are not only forms of communicating but also reflect the lived histories and identities of students. These learners exercise agency in selecting when, how and in what context they wish to combine words, emojis and signs to communicate meaning across languages. This is why it doesn't make sense to teach languages only through grammar-based instruction, where students learn a given language form in the target language (say, the imperfect) and are expected to produce this in the right social context. Worse, they are expected to do this for a grade that can impact their future economic success. Superdiverse cities in Canada are prime examples of linguistic landscapes where mixing occurs. In Toronto, where I teach, English and French are official languages and taught in school from age 4. The recent influx of Greek, Syrian and Afghan migrants means that it is not unusual to hear Greek or Arabic being mixed with English or French in the same sentence. In language learning we call these hybrid language forms multi-, pluri- and/or translingualism. They are not going away and cannot be ignored. New translingual practice There is no reason why students cannot learn a language by following the rules and bounds of that language, while also being allowed to draw on alternative and hybrid language forms, and being assessed on these practices. This satisfies the moral dilemma for language teachers, who on the one hand need to teach the grammar that is required for success in a global job market, but on the other need to respect students' lived histories and identities. Pedagogies of translingualism reconceptualise a wide range of language tasks that may be grammar-based in some aspects and more open-ended in others. Allowing students to oscillate between the target language and their preferred language forms begins by encouraging them to integrate words, expressions and/or emojis across written and spoken language tasks. Integrating listening and reading activities that exemplify translingual practices can serve as a useful activity in developing translingual communicative competence. For instance, Suresh Canagarajah discusses an assignment where language students in the UK were encouraged to code-mix (employ multiple languages in mixed ways) to negotiate and communicate meaning in an autobiographical text. 4 A student called Buthainah mixed English, Arabic and French, as well as "visual motifs, emoticons and other symbols" to negotiate meaning. Readers employed multisensory reading to interpret her symbols, which included a common Islamic motif referencing her Islamic influences. Those who didn't understand the Arabic used a 'let-it-pass' principle, choosing not to worry about aspects they did not understand. Instead, they focused on what meaning they could extract, drawing on past experiences inside and outside the classroom. In superdiverse contexts, teachers can tailor similar open-ended tasks to language learners with varying linguistic needs. In my own Bias in class © SHUTTERSTOCK

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 60,3 - June/July 2021