Translanguaging for Emergent Bilinguals: Inclusive Teaching in the Linguistically Diverse Classroom
reviewed by Craig Hughes & Yukari Amos - June 13, 2019
Title: Translanguaging for Emergent Bilinguals: Inclusive Teaching in the Linguistically Diverse Classroom
Author(s): Danling Fu, Xenia Hadjioannou, & Xiaodi Zhou
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807761125, Pages: 144, Year: 2019
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In their book, Translanguaging for Emergent Bilinguals, Fu, Hadjioannou, and Zhou have attempted to answer the following questions: What is translanguaging and how can it be applied in the classroom? These questions are being asked by more and more teachers who want to improve the educational experience of linguistically diverse students. Translanguaging has emerged as one of the power code terms of this decade. However, there has been much ambiguity surrounding what this term really means or how it can be applied in the classroom. In this text, the authors make an effort to clarify this for practicing teachers.
This book consists of an introduction and five chapters. The introduction introduces us to the experiences of the authors as bilingual individuals. Their personal stories are effectively used to introduce the concept of translanguaging. Chapter One provides an overview of the history and development of translanguaging. Chapters Two, Three, and Four each addresses a particular challenge faced by those who are attempting to integrate translanguaging into teaching. Chapter Five demonstrates how translanguaging can be used in different academic settings. Throughout the book, many personal stories and classroom vignettes are provided, a feature that will help practicing and preservice teachers apply the concept of translanguaging in practice.
In Chapters Two through Four, the authors situate the concept of translanguaging within three areas of challenge: academic, social, and school. In each of these chapters, the authors use vignettes to contextualize the application of translanguaging in these distinct areas and document how existing structures and practices limit the opportunity of emergent bilingual students. They also describe how the implementation of a translanguaging program would improve the academic, social, and school standings of such students. For example, when dealing with academic challenges, the authors focus heavily upon the separation of languages as practiced both in dual-language bilingual and English-only programs. Such programs restrict access to both of the students two languages, which lessens their opportunity to interact at higher cognitive levels. Allowing students to incorporate their native languages as well as the target language within the educational environment moves them from being outsiders to full participants in the classroom activities.
The authors follow up the negative examples of translanguaging students with positive ones. Once again, the vignettes are used to document how simple practices of translanguaging have been incorporated into many classrooms, allowing students to become partners with their counterparts who are the native speakers of the dominant language. Of greater importance, there are times when they become the experts. This moves them from being the ones who always receive help to the ones who assist their peers.
The final chapter of the book is where the authors attempt to locate translanguaging within different classroom settings. They reiterate their belief that translanguaging is not a program, but rather a pedagogical model that can be used within any classroom with emergent bilingual students. The authors reinforce this concept by using the Frequently Asked Questions format to address specific issues pertaining to emergent bilinguals in a bilingual classroom setting, an ESL setting, or a mainstream classroom setting. This allows the authors to explicitly address a variety of concerns that practicing teachers may have. Combined with the information provided in the previous chapters, this approach is very helpful. However, specific instructions for how to implement the authors advice are not clearly laid out.
This type of ambiguity unfortunately permeates throughout the book. For instance, the authors take the concept of translanguaging from a pedagogical application of theories into the area of social justice. This is impressive. From their perspective, we need to shift our conceptualization of bilingual students away from the precept that they are learning English to one that treats emergent bilingual/multilingual students as having a talent, not a handicap. In order for this to happen, bilingual/multilingual students need to do more than just acquire the skills needed in the target language. They need to understand how and where combining their languages is appropriate as well as how they can use such knowledge for social change. This is a powerful message. However, how to facilitate emergent bilinguals for accomplishing these empowering tasks is not clear.
In addition, the most fundamental question remains unanswered. Simply stated, what exactly is translanguaging? The authors claim that bilingual individuals can maximize the merit of being able to use two languages rather than separating the two languages. This claim should resonate with those who are bilingual and biliterate. For example, Yukari is bilingual in Japanese and English. She frequently takes notes in Japanese while reading a book in English. To her, this comes naturally. So, is Yukari translanguaging? After a brief introduction of the concept in their first chapter, the authors continue on through the remainder of the book as if we have a clear understanding of what translanguaging is all about. However, a definite definition of translanguaging is never provided, thus leaving us to wonder whether or not our understanding of the concept is really considered translanguaging. In reality, there is no single consensus as to what translanguaging means, nor about how it can be applied in the field (Cummins, 2019; Daryai-Hansen, 2019; Hult, 2019).
Although readers may be confused about the definition of translanguaging and other issues, the authors keep emphasizing the view, from the work of Garcia and her colleagues (2014; 2017), that emergent bilingual students do not develop two separate linguistic repertoires. Rather, as languages develop, they are brought into the mind as a single linguistic system. Emergent bilingual students incorporate the appropriate aspects of named languages for the linguistic event. This view clearly differentiates translanguaging from code-switching and code-mixing, which assumes the existence of two languages. (however, this distinction would be more concrete if any explanations were provided). Furthermore, their view of translanguaging is illustrated by juxtaposing examples of translanguaging with other models, such as monolingual and traditional bilingual education. Therefore, readers are still able to follow the authors arguments even though the definition of translanguaging remains nebulous and ambiguous.
Because the authors intentionally circumvent defining what translanguaging is and instead convey their messages through abundant examples, personal stories, and classroom vignettes, the book becomes a friendly support tool for practicing and preservice teachers who are interested in implementing translanguaging practices according to whatever definitions they take from the book.
Cummins, J. (2019, April). The language of translanguaging: Implications of languaging about
language for classroom instruction in multilingual contexts. Paper presented at The Third Swedish Translanguaging Conference, Växjö, Sweden.
Daryai-Hansen, P. (2019, April). Pluralistic approaches to languages in the foreign language classroom in Denmark: Teachers development of knowledge and attitudes in a development project. Paper presented at The Third Swedish Translanguaging Conference, Växjö, Sweden.
Garcia, O., Johnson, S., & Seltzer, K. (2017). The translanguaging classroom: Leveraging
student bilingualism for learning. Philadelphia, PA: Caslon.
Garcia, O., & Li, W. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism, and education. London,
England: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hult, F. M. (2019, April). Are translanguaging and plurilingualism interchangeable? Paper presented at The Third Swedish Translanguaging Conference, Växjö, Sweden.