Translanguaging: a new trend in language teaching. A short review.

Translanguaging: a new trend in language teaching. A short review.

Translanguaging is the process when speakers of different languages use their native languages as an integrated communication system. Traditionally, language teaching has targeted communicative competence such as linguistic, strategic, and what is more important, discourse competence. However, nowadays the term multilingual repertoire has been promoted, referring to what multilingual intelligence the learner has. Some linguists claim that a multilingual speaker’s full repertoire should be considered while teaching the language; knowledge or mastering any other language should be taken into account and used in the class. When a multilingual speaker learns a new language, he or she tends to link the prior knowledge to the newly acquired one. Secondly, they claim that monolingual class does not provide natural social context, so much needed for the comfort zone of a learner, as monolingual class is deprived of context. While experiencing translanguaging, a student will be using all their cognitive and linguistic resources to contextualize the material. 

Translanguaging or code-switching

Code-switching describes the process of moving from one language to another. This was considered to be a weakness, and that explains why the language teachers were forced to move to monolingual classes, believing that more English instruction can lead to quicker English acquisition. However, here is the main difference between code-switching and translanguaging:

Code-switching is the process of changing two languages while translanguaging creates a complete language repertoire. Skilful teachers use strategies or tools to draw on all the language resources the student has to benefit the learning and ensure the result.

Why simple translation will not be about translanguaging?

The simple translation is considered not to be translanguaging while in translating, one of the languages will dominate and the student will soon tune out into one language. Reading and translating spate items is not translanguaging. Moreover, it is not an effective way of teaching a language as the student’s brain will not model the language.

Translanguaging activities

Activity 1

The student is given an article or a story to read in his or her native language; the teacher can have its English version. The student reads the article, analyzes it, points out the main ideas, and writes a summary or the English version of the text.  The teacher then presents the translated version and asks the student to compare their own and the translated version of the article. The student compares both texts, finds the differences and similarities, comments on the way the message is delivered.

Activity 2

The student is given a video or podcast in their native language. They listen to the audio or watch the video and then report about it in English. They can also prepare journalist’s questions in English. The student moving back and forth in languages will have to access the whole language repertoire to process and reflect on the information they get.

Activity 3

A student is assigned a task to choose any friend or a blogger or famous person he or she follows on social media. The profile has to be in their native language. They investigate their profile, follow their posts and write one post in English on behalf of that person; as if this person posts it in English.  This will be very interesting as they will have to explain why exactly that post or content matches the person’s profile. 

There can be a lot of activities; the main logic is that the student accesses meaningful content in one language and projects it in the second language. And be careful, it is NOT about TRANSLATION, it is TRANSLANGUAGING; the student smoothly moves from one language to another creating meaningful, reasonable, logical content or contextualizing the given resource. 

Speaking activities are, obviously, essential for English language speaking classes. A lot of students join classes particularly to develop their communicative competence, become more fluent, versatile, adaptable, and confident communicators in English. However, designing speaking activities might be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for any teacher. We have prepared a memo with superb ready-made speaking tasks that will make your student talking. Download it here.

Lusine Stepanyan

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