Translanguaging – The start of my journey


Translanguaging is when a bi / multilingual learner uses all of their linguistic resources to access content lessons.

As Garcia, O. (2009) states ‘translanguaging challenges monolingual assumptions’ about current policy, especially here in the UK with the insistence of using English only in many mainstream schools.  She moves on to say that translanguaging is a pedagogical practice ‘that uses bilingualism as a resource.’

I was recently investigating writing to suggest with my EAL Y9 class and attempted to allow my learners to use their ‘bilingualism as a resource’ in the planning and writing of an email.  After looking at a model email paying particular attention to the overall organisation, I asked my learners to plan an email that they would write to a friend of their that made some suggestions to a problem (made up) that their friend had.  We first discussed typical problems that teenagers might have and then we looked possible suggestions to help solve these problems.  I allowed my learners to think about friends they have in their own country.  Also, because I had four Italian speakers I allowed them to discuss in Italian especially when they were struggling to find the words in English.  The next stage was for learners to identify a particular problem and then brainstorm possible suggestions and solutions.  I asked my learners to complete a graphic organiser and to do this using their home language.  It was amazing to see how much more detail they were able to write about because they were using their home language.

The most amazing part, for me, in the whole process was when they were writing the email.  I had already emphasised that they must follow the model email and that they should follow their plan and some of the results were staggering.  One student had the correct structure and had written the email (a three paragraph email) in Arabic, English and French.  Another student had written in Pashto and although I cannot read Pashto I could see, when I sat with the students to discuss his work, that he did not have the correct overall organisation and had 6 paragraphs.  We were able to look at the improvements that he would need to make for the writing to be more coherent.  This was also the same for a student who had written in Italian but had written too much in the introductory paragraph and not enough in the second paragraph that should have offered suggestions and solutions.  The learner had a clear understanding of the changes he would need to make to improve his writing.  Another student had used both Italian and English in his email because I had discussed with him that if he was stuck for words in English then he could use Italian to support this.  This was the most amount of writing that this particular student had ever written for me.

The next step for me is for the learners to now translate their emails from their home language into English paying attention to the feedback I have given them paying particular attention to the overall organisation of the email.  This comes next week and I will be reporting on how this has gone in a future post.

In summary, translanguaging to me, is still in its infancy and I am still trailing it to see how it can help my EAL learners to improve their English.  Early signs are looking good and I look forward to sharing my journey in translanguaging with you further.

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