Let's Talk About Education

Building On Strengths Instead of Deficits: Languaging and Translanguaging

October 27, 2020 - By Cody Alton - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

When we see a student learning English as their second, third, or even fourth language, do we see this student as having an advantage, a strength that can be leveraged, or a concern that unless fixed will have a harmful effect on their learning at EARJ?

Language is how we make meaning of the world. Language allows us to inquire and holds a crucial role in our learning process. How we use language changes constantly, especially in a globally connected world.

Our language might change depending on who we are talking to or what we are talking about. It might change from sending an email versus a WhatsApp message. We might use two or three different languages within one single day, and even within those languages change how we are communicating depending on who we are communicating with.

Basically, language is flexible. It is a fluid act that when used as an action or verb, we call it languaging. For our students, they are languaging to make meaning from lessons as they continue to make meaning of the world. If they speak multiple languages, languaging can become a more unique asset or a strength in making meaning.

Language and culture are intimately intertwined, allowing students to bring into our classrooms diverse cultures filled with enriching perspectives. When students call upon their multiple languages, even if they are not all fluent, they can make greater connections. We call this translanguaging.

Translanguaging allows students to make more meaningful and diverse connections to content by utilizing all of their languages. When encouraged and celebrated openly, they can begin to share this enrichment with the entire class, where English Language Learners are thoughtfully included, and all students can deepen meaning.

For any student, bilingualism or multilingualism can be either subtractive or additive. “English only” can lead to diversity restricting, monolingual or monocultural meanings, and diminished learning outcomes. Instead of English only, what could we gain from English plus, where translanguaging is valued, encouraged, and celebrated?

Cody Alton
Director of Student Support Services

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