Translanguaging: A Strategy to Develop Authentic Biliteracy in Language Immersion Classrooms

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Translanguaging is a dynamic process in which multilingual language users utilize their language systems to make meaning and to develop cooperation amongst languages. Translanguaging involves language production, functions, and thought processes behind language use. It is the complex and fluid practices of bilinguals, as well as the pedagogical practices that the teacher employs to leverage those practices (Vogel & Garcia, 2017). Translanguaging is a process that equalizes the languages spoken in the classroom, and removes language hierarchies that exist in the dominant culture. It promotes a deeper understanding of the subject matter and it helps the development of the students’ weaker language. It is a strategy centered not only on languages, but on the observable and dynamic practices of bilinguals. Ofelia Garcia (2009), the author of Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective, states that “translanguaging are multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of their bilingual worlds” (p. 45). It goes beyond code switching and translation because it refers to the process of making meaning and simultaneous literacy. Code-switching refers to the alternation between languages in specific communicative situations, whereas translanguaging is a process of making meaning, and the focus is on how the language user draws upon different linguistic and cognitive resources to make sense. Translanguaging theory recognizes that all people, including monolinguals and bilinguals, have one linguistic repertoire, learned through dynamic social interactions, and from which they select and employ features to make meaning in context (Vogel & Garcia, 2017).

Garcia & Vogel (2017) state the core components of teachers’ translanguaging pedagogy as identified in García, Johnson, and Seltzer (2017):

  1. Stance: A belief that students’ diverse linguistic practices are valuable resources to be built upon and leveraged in their education.
  2. Design: A strategic plan that integrates students’ in-school and out-of-school or community language practices. The design of instructional units, lesson plans, and assessment are informed and driven by students’ language practices and ways of knowing, and also ensure that students have enough exposure to, and practice with, the language features that are required for different academic tasks.
  3. Shifts: An ability to make moment-by-moment changes to an instructional plan based on student feedback.

Continue reading to learn more about translanguaging….

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Translanguaging can be a difficult strategy for bilingual teachers to employ because of strict language separation guidelines, used to protect the minoritized language, in dual language classrooms. Having flexible language practices during designated translanguaging times allows students to use their language and literacy skills in ways that are more fluid. The project CUNY-NYSIEB, which has developed a thorough and comprehensive translanguaging guide that can be found here, states that translanguaging supports the ability of bilingual students to have multiple identities. This lengthy guide offers specific strategies and lesson plans that bilingual teachers can utilize to create an environment where translanguaging practices are used to deepen understanding of language and bilingualism. It is recommended that entire dual language teams take time to review the guide and to use it to plan and discuss curricular implications for the dual program. Dual language educators must continue to allocate separate spaces for the target languages, whilst simultaneously provide an instructional space where translanguaging is nurtured and used critically and creatively.

Vogel & Garcia (2017) cite the four purposes for the strategic use of translanguaging in education, as identified by García, Johnson, and Seltzer (2017):

  1. Supporting students as they engage with and comprehend complex content and texts.
  2. Providing opportunities for students to develop linguistic practices for academic contexts.
  3. Making space for students’ bilingualism and ways of knowing.
  4. Supporting students’ bilingual identities and socioemotional development.

Translanguaging pedagogy has the potential to transform relationships between students, teachers, and the curriculum. Translanguaging necessitates a co-learning space (Li Wei, 2013) where teachers and students learn from each other, and all language practices are equally valued.

It is important for educators to understand that students are always translanguaging-selecting appropriate features from their language repertoire (Vogel & Garcia, 2017). Not allowing for translanguaging will promote the students’ linguistic insecurity, leaving them in a state of incongruency as they evaluate their bilingualism according to isolated monolingual standards and practices. Isolating languages of instruction in all types of language education classrooms will result in the students’ failure to acquire new linguistic features and will not develop their bilingualism (Vogel & Garcia, 2017). Although the protection of languages is important in dual language immersion settings, it is important to designate specific translanguaging experiences so that students can develop their identities as bilinguals.

For more information about translanguaging in dual language classrooms, click here and here.

Example #1 and example # 2 of a second grade teacher using translanguaging practices during a vocabulary lesson.

Video of Jim Cummins explaining translanguaging teaching methods.

Image for Article: Translanguaging: A Strategy to Develop Authentic Biliteracy in Language Immersion Classrooms

Continue reading to learn more about translanguaging….

Image for Article: Translanguaging: A Strategy to Develop Authentic Biliteracy in Language Immersion Classrooms

García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
García, O., Johnson, S., & Seltzer, K. (2017). The translanguaging classroom. Leveraging student bilingualism for learning. Philadelphia: Caslon.
Li Wei. (2011). Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 1222–1235.
Li Wei. (2013). Who’s teaching whom? Co-learning in multilingual classrooms. In S. May (Ed.), The multilingual turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL and bilingual education (pp. 167–190). New York: Routledge.
Otheguy, R., García, O., & Reid, W. (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281–307.
Vogel, S., & Garcia, O. (2017, December 19). Translanguaging. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Ed. Retrieved 6 Jan. 2019, from

Angela Palmieri
Author: Angela Palmieri

Angela Palmieri is the founding teacher of a Spanish dual language immersion program in Glendale, California. She currently teaches sixth grade language immersion and has been an educator for eighteen years. She traveled to New Zealand on the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching in 2016 to research and document the cultural practices taught in Maōri-medium schools. Angela holds a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the Principal Leadership Institute at UCLA, a Master’s degree in Reading and Language Education, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Learning Education from CSULA. Ms. Palmieri is currently a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Ms. Palmieri was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, to Italian immigrant parents, and speaks Spanish and Italian fluently. She is a social justice-driven advocate for bilingual and indigenous language education and is an avid traveler. Angela travelled to China and Mongolia on a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant in June and July of 2018.

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