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Chalkboard with Different Languages


Translanguaging as an Agentive, Collaborative & Socioculturally Responsive Pedagogy for Multilingual Learners

  • K-12

The translanguaging turn in language education offers a new perspective on multilingualism by positing that multilingual learners have one linguistic repertoire rather than two or more autonomous language systems (García & Li Wei, 2014). When learners engage in translanguaging, they draw on all the features from their repertoire in a flexible and integrated way (Otheguy, García, & Reid, 2015). While many studies have advocated for the use of teacher-led pedagogical translanguaging, less research has documented the affordances of student-led collaborative translanguaging, and the factors that may constrain their use of translanguaging. My PhD research was a step in this direction as it provided evidence of the potential of translanguaging as an intentional and agentive student-led collaborative pedagogy for multilingual learners. My research was a case study of two trilingual Grade 5 English language classes in a Malaysian elementary school – one class with an English-only policy, and one class without. Over 6 months, I recorded learners’ interactions as they worked in groups of 3-5 on collaborative learning activities. My data sources also included interviews with 55 learners and their two teachers, artefacts, field notes, and reflexive journal entries. Using sociocultural critical discourse analysis (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997; Mercer, 2004), I conducted qualitative and quantitative analyses of 100 30-minute to 1.5-hour long transcripts of learners’ interactions, and conducted a thematic analysis (Nowell, Norris, White & Moules, 2017) of the interviews. The results revealed that learners in both classes used translanguaging agentively to fulfil 100 cognitive-conceptual, planning-organizational, affective-social and linguistic-discursive functions that supported their individual and collective learning. Even with an English-only policy in place, learners harnessed the affordances of translanguaging using multimodal resources such as symbols, images, videos, and gestures. However, their specific language choices and beliefs about language were influenced and at times constrained by the teacher’s language policies and practices, parental discourses about linguistic capital, and ethnic tensions in the country. My research positions translanguaging as collaborative and agentive, socioculturally situated and culturally responsive, and a resource for learning as well as a process of learning. As an outcome of this study, I provided recommendations for a collaborative translanguaging pedagogy approach. You can download my thesis here:


Fairclough, N., & Wodak, R. (1997). Critical discourse analysis. In T. A. van Dijk (Ed.), Discourse as social interaction (pp. 258-284). Sage.

García, O., & Li Wei. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Palgrave MacMillan.

Mercer, N. (2004). Sociocultural discourse analysis: Analysing classroom talk as a social mode of

thinking. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 137–168.

Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the

trustworthiness criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16, 1-13.

Otheguy, R., García, O., & Reid, W. (2018). A translanguaging view of the linguistic system of bilinguals.

Applied Linguistics Review, 10(4), 625-651.

Translanguaging as a Resource in University ESL Classrooms

(With Jennifer Burton, OISE/University of Toronto, Canada)

  • Higher education

Many researchers have forwarded translanguaging as a theoretical and pedagogical approach to language education because of its potential cognitive, social, and affective benefits. A translanguaging pedagogy calls for instructors to affirm the dynamic and diverse language practices that multilingual students utilize as part of their unitary language repertoire. However, because English-only pedagogies, policies, and practices still permeate the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom, it is critical to understand how ESL instructors’ language ideologies and orientations play a role in shaping their pedagogical practices and classroom language policies. This project (with co-researcher Jennifer Burton) explored university ESL instructors’ attitudes toward translanguaging in the classroom and possible reasons for instructors’ resistance in moving translanguaging ideology into English language teaching pedagogy. Using Ruíz’s (1984) orientations in language planning and translanguaging theory, this study examined the language orientations of five ESL instructors at a major Canadian university based on qualitative data gathered through semistructured interviews. The findings provided insights into instructors’ attitudes toward translanguaging, the relationship between instructors’ language learning experiences and their classroom language policy, and institutional opportunities and constraints. You can download the article based on this project here:


Ruíz, R. (1984). Orientations in language planning. NABE: The Journal for the National Association for Bilingual Education, 8(2), 15–34.

Classroom Approaches to CLIL and Translanguaging

(with PI Dr. Anna Mendoza, The University of Hong Kong & Dr. Andrew Coombs, Queen's University, Canada)

  • K-12

All over the world, subject content is increasingly being taught to students in English, even in countries where English is not the dominant language. In Applied Linguistics, this approach to pedagogy is called Content-Language Integrated Learning, or CLIL: learning subject content and language at the same time. Since CLIL classrooms, almost by definition, are multilingual classrooms, students and teachers are constantly translanguaging: using multiple languages to learn and navigate the social life of the class. How this plays out in different CLIL classrooms around the world, based on factors like geographic location, subject taught, linguistic composition of the class, and language skills of the teacher is the question the study aims to answer. At the end of the two-year research period, the research team hopes to develop a website hosting a survey on teachers’ translanguaging (TL) practices in K-12 English-medium subject classrooms internationally. Our aim is to study how teachers use students’ languages beyond English to support students’ learning. Any K-12 teacher in the world teaching subject content in English (i.e., Content Language Integrated Learning or CLIL) to multilingual students can visit our website and take the survey to learn about using TL practices in their classrooms.

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