Opinion Piece by Vivian Pratts, Bilingual Educational Consultant at VP Dual Language/Biliteracy/ESL sponsored by Okapi Educational Publishing
Emergent bilingual is a term proposed by García (2009) that is used to describe students in schools whose home language is not English. The term emergent bilingual validates the fact that these students are actively becoming bilinguals. This use of both languages of instruction has been referred to by García and her colleagues (García & Kleifgen, 2018; García, Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017) as translanguaging. They describe translanguaging as the "multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of their bilingual worlds" (García, 2009). Emergent bilinguals benefit when teachers take a position or stance (García, 2009) toward the use of both languages and do not adhere to an absolute strict separation of languages. In dual language programs where the two languages are strictly separated, students are treated like two monolinguals. For example, in an English-Spanish dual language classroom, students may be treated like monolingual speakers of English during English instruction and monolingual speakers of Spanish during Spanish instruction. This separation does not allow students to strategically draw on their home languages as a resource (Freeman, Freeman & Mercuri, 2018). Cummins (2007) argues for the strategic use of both languages during instruction.
While it is essential to have large, macro-spaces for student language immersion in our dual language programs, where students in dual language programs have time dedicated to the use of each language of instruction, it is also important for smaller, micro-spaces to exist. It is in these micro-spaces where instruction can be intentionally and strategically planned (García, Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017) by the teacher to support and encourage the flexible use of a student's linguistic repertoire to make meaning while becoming bilingual, biliterate and bicultural. This could be referred to as a third space in dual language classrooms where instruction is not only in English or Spanish, but both.
The reality in dual language classrooms is that the students' home language is present even when instruction is in the other language. Often students can be heard speaking among themselves in their home languages to negotiate the meaning of instruction in the other language.
Continue reading to learn more about Vivian Pratt's thoughts on translanguaging…