Envisioning TESOL through a Translanguaging Lens, Global Perspectives.
By Zhongfeng Tian, Laila Aghai, Peter Sayer & Jamie L. Schissel Editors
By Liza E. Martinez and Kara Mac Donald
This is part two of the review of Envisioning TESOL through a Translanguaging Lens, Global Perspectives. This portion discusses Part III: Translanguaging in TESOL Classrooms of the publication. If you missed the November Blog Book Review that discusses Part I: Theorizing Translanguaging in TESOL and Part II: Translanguaging in TESOL Teacher Education, please check it out at the November Book Review
Part III: Translanguaging in TESOL Classrooms
Tower of Babel or Garden of Eden? Teaching English as a Foreign Language through a Translanguaging Lens
By Mirjam Günther-van der Meij and Joana Duarte
Chapter 11 examines the use of translanguaging by kindergarten and elementary school-age children in the bilingual Province of Friesland, the Netherlands. In this province, Frisian is the regional minority language, which is spoken as the home language by 55% of the population. On the other hand, Dutch is spoken as the home language by 30% of the population while 15% speak another language. Since most children speak their home tongue and Dutch, English is their third language or L3. The article’s aim is twofold: 1) present a holistic model for multilingualism (translingualism) in primary school education; and 2) provide examples of multilingual activities that were developed within two research projects.
The holistic model consists of five approaches that fall into a spectrum: Language Awareness (at one end), Language Comparison, Receptive Multilingualism, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), and Immersion (at the other end). Teachers can choose which of the five categories they will use with students. The differences are that Language Awareness, Language Comparison, and Receptive Multilingualism focus more on attitudes; in contrast, CLIL and Immersion focus on knowledge and skills.
The remainder of the article focuses on two projects (3M and the Language-4all) conducted in three project schools. The teachers in the three schools received professional development and created multilingual activities through data-based research. Twenty hours of videographic observations were recorded of students between the ages of 4 through 11. The focus was on the different types of interactions that occurred in the ESL classrooms. The findings showed different languages were spoken. In one activity, the instructor taught math to kindergarten students. Three languages of instruction were used: English, Frisian, and Dutch. The instructor mixed the languages so students could understand the math concept. Furthermore, regional and minority languages were used to enhance content and language knowledge. In another activity, English, Dutch, Frisian and French words were compared. The study also recorded receptive multilingualism whereby the teacher and students spoke different languages but understood each other. In a third case, an immersion component along with scaffolding were used with English, Dutch, and Frisian as the languages of instruction. Interestingly, before the study, the teachers never mixed languages nor used regional minority or migrant languages. Non-English languages were used spontaneously in group work or one-to-one interactions with the teacher.
Overall, the multilingual activities were successful. Nevertheless, there were some shortcomings. First, the students primarily spoke Dutch, and they were not encouraged to use their home languages by the teachers. Secondly, the activities mainly focused on oral skills.
The authors end this chapter by calling for further studies on multilingualism to be conducted at the national and transnational levels. As such, findings can be shared on what does and does not work in translanguaging. In this way, it can be determined whether translanguaging in primary education leads to a Tower of Babel or Garden of Eden.
“Colibrí” 'Hummingbird' as Translanguaging Metaphor
By Brian Seilstad and Somin Kim
Chapter 12 presents a study in an urban city in central Ohio. The site is an adolescent welcoming center that serves more than 100 national languages with the top 5 being Spanish, Somali, Arabic, Nepali, and French. The center offers a 1-2 year transitional program with approximately 800 students during an academic school year. A 10th-grade biology class was studied during the 2015-2016 school year. The instructor was multilingual (English, Spanish, and Somali). He was a licensed science teacher with an ESL endorsement. At the time of the study, he was taking a bilingual class at the Ohio State University. From this class, he was learning about the nuances of translanguaging. This instructor also had bilingual instructional assistants/para-professionals who spoke the students’ languages. One of them played a crucial role in the outcome of the study; this is presented later in the article.
This study examined the intersection of content-based knowledge and language learning through an ethnography and discourse analysis. The data were collected by two researchers (the authors of this chapter) as well as the above instructor over 8 months. It included 20 classroom observations along with audio-video recordings, fieldnotes, and interviews with the teacher, students, and instructional assistant. The principal data came from a project on biomes that students researched, created, and presented at the end of the school year. In previous years, the biome project used English-only presentations; for this study, the home language and English were used. Some students resisted and questioned the rationale; they were “English-centric” (in the words of the authors). The students also questioned reading/writing in their home languages because they were weak in them. The instructor explained that English and the home language would be used to explain the science content. All of the students complied. They were placed, in large part, in homogenous language groups, but there were some heterogeneous language groups. The presentations ensued. At the end of one of them, the instructional assistant commented that the word colibrí (hummingbird) is also used in Serbian, her native language. This prompted an unexpected, yet positive, emotional response from the group; for her part, the instructional assistant expressed her surprise at the discovery. This event illustrated translanguaging at work from the preparation to the presentation; as such, the teacher, students, and instructional assistant used their linguistic repertoires to negotiate and co-create meaning as they engaged in the biome project. Next, the students listened to presentations in students’ home languages and English, and participated in question-and-answer sessions using their linguistic repertoires. Finally, came the focal point when the instructional assistant discovered a cognate between Spanish and Serbian. The authors offered the word colibrí as being an apt metaphor for translanguaging. For them, “The colibrí’s quick movements and beautiful plumage symbolize the flexible and creative language use of bi/multilingual people” (Seilstad and Kim, 2020, p. 269).
Translanguaging and Task Based Language Teaching: Crossovers and Challenges
By Corrine A. Seals, Jonathan Newton, Madeline Ash, and Bao Trang Thi Nguyen
Chapter 13 examines the relationship between translanguaging and task based learning teaching (TBLT). On the surface, the two may seem incompatible. After all, translanguaging deals with an applied sociolinguistic approach while TBLT’s roots are in cognitive science. TBLT draws from communicative language teaching with its call for English-only classrooms. Nevertheless, there are studies in which L1 was used in task based ESL classrooms. They found that L1 was used by adolescents and young adults when engaging in task management, negotiating the meaning of unknown vocabulary, procedural matters, and conversing about topics unrelated to class assignments.
When it came to younger learners, the authors found a burgeoning number of studies of L1 use in TBLT. They found that the students used their L1 when 1) tasks became increasingly difficult and the task needed to be completed in a group; 2) asking for help; 3) utilizing metacognition; 4) using the L1 to keep a conversation in L2 moving; and 5) speaking with their teacher. In a meta-analysis of TBLT, Plonsky and Kim (2016) found that only 6 out of 85 studies used the L1. For the authors, this may have been for one of three reasons: 1) L1 was not permitted; 2) researchers did not report its use; or 3) L1 was left out when it occurred. Despite these findings, the present authors think that translanguaging has a place in the TBLT classroom. Both approaches focus on the negotiation of meaning. They also focus on the melding of content and language learning. In addition, they both stress experiential learning, learner-centered instruction, and language that can be used outside of the classroom. To demonstrate the similarities, they offered a study that was conducted in southeast Asia.
The setting was a high school in Hanoi, Vietnam. The original purpose of the study was to determine how the teachers used TBLT in speaking lessons and how students engaged and performed assigned tasks. The data were comprised of video and audio recordings and field notes from 45 observations of 9 classes (10th, 11th, and 12th grades); these were taught by nine teachers. Interviews of the teachers and selected students were conducted. While translanguaging was not mentioned in the purpose of the study, it appeared in the data. The students used translanguaging in three instances: 1) organizing a task: 2) giving or asking for help; and 3) negotiating meaning. They also used L1 substantially when it came to preparing their presentations, which would be carried out in English. Since the students were under pressure, it was faster for them to communicate in Vietnamese. Twenty-nine of fifty-four students stated that they used L1 to organize their thoughts or meaning first and then connected their ideas in L1 to L2. They stated that translanguaging was needed and useful during the rehearsal phase. Through translanguaging, the students were able to negotiate meaning and complete the assigned speaking tasks in English.
Translanguaging gives voice to minority learners who find it difficult to communicate in English. In doing so, it provides the means to tear down the hegemonic wall of English-only instruction.
Translanguaging for Vocabulary Development: A Mixed-Methods Study with International Students in a Canadian English for Academic Purposes Program
By Angelica Galante
Chapter 14, like previous chapters, views translingualism as viable for the ESL classroom. To demonstrate this, a mixed-methods study with a quasi-experimental design was conducted; the site was a university EAP program in Toronto, Canada. The purpose was twofold: 1) to determine if the treatment group learned more vocabulary than the comparison group; and 2) the extent that pedagogical translanguaging is used; Galante (2020) defines pedagogical translingualism as “…requir[ing] that students use the languages in their repertoires to make meaning of the target language” (p.296). The study consisted of two groups of students and was part of a larger study on plurilingualism. The treatment group engaged in three pedagogical translanguaging tasks while the comparison group participated in three monolingual tasks. In total, 129 students with seven teachers participated.
The three tasks were conducted in weeks 3, 5, and 7 of the semester. In week 3, the comparison group engaged in small talk. The task ended with students presenting role-plays they created. For the treatment group, the students began by thinking of situations where they used translanguaging. Then they watched a video on translanguaging. Later, the students did a presentation in which they showed situations where they used translanguaging spontaneously. Later in week 5, both groups worked on idiomatic expressions in English. Eighteen identical idioms, which students tried to decipher, were presented to both groups. The comparison group was asked to work individually, and then write sentences with each idiom. In contrast, students in the treatment group worked in pairs or small groups; they were asked to determine if a similar idiom existed in their native languages. If so, each group presented a non-English idiom while the other students tried to guess the meaning of this idiom. Finally, in week 7, both groups were presented with 8 identical discourse markers. While the comparison group completed the task in English, the treatment group was encouraged to use translanguaging. Students in both watched videos addressing different topics to analyze speakers’ use of discourse markers. Later, the comparison group performed their task to their class monolingually; the treatment group used translanguaging.
In addition to the three tasks, both groups engaged in additional activities. They completed a vocabulary test that involved filling in the blank with the appropriate idiom or discourse marker. Both groups were also observed three times during the semester. Finally, diary entries from both groups were collected; these totaled 197 entries.
For the vocabulary test, an independent sample t-test was conducted. The results showed that the treatment group had larger vocabulary gains than the comparison group. For the author, pedagogical translanguaging may have contributed to the vocabulary growth of the treatment group.
In terms of the observations, the treatment group was surprised when first asked to use their native language. As time passed, participants became more engaged in translanguaging. By the third observation, translanguaging seemed commonplace.
For the diary entries, the treatment group also evolved in their use of translanguaging. At first, they saw translanguaging as a means to be validated. With the passage of time, however, they use translanguaging to tap higher-order thinking. Interestingly, when students of several language groups worked together, they taught each other words from their native language, so no one would feel left out. Students also used technology to negotiate meaning.
For the author, the connection between translanguaging as theory and pedagogy needs to be further explored, particularly when the teacher and students do not speak the same native language. Nevertheless, this study demonstrated how it is possible to shift the paradigm from monolingual language instruction to a multilingual one.
EFL Instructors’ Ambivalent Ideological Stances toward Translanguaging: Collaborative Reflection on Language Ideologies
By Christian Fallas-Escobar
Chapter 15 arose from the findings of two previous studies that Fallas-Escobar conducted. In those studies, he found that his participants, EFL university teachers, were against the use of translanguaging in the classroom. Nevertheless, they engaged in translanguaging outside of the classroom during faculty meetings or casual talks in the hallway. For Fallas-Escobar, these contradictions stemmed from personal, institutional, and societal forces that advocated a monolingual stance in the EFL classroom. If given the chance, Fallas-Escobar believed that EFL teachers could collaboratively negotiate and challenge the premises of English-only instruction. As such, he conducted a qualitative study that involved three Costa Rican EFL teachers who taught at the same public university for 6 to 8 years. Two of them had bachelor’s degrees in TEFL. One had a bachelor’s in EFL. Two had master’s degrees in second language education whereas the other held a master’s in literature.
The data were collected through a series of critical dialogues that drew from the works of Freire and Vygotsky. To prepare for the critical dialogues, Fallas-Escobar led the teachers through a 4-step model. In the first step, critical dialogue was defined, and its benefits were mentioned. In the second step, the stumbling blocks of critical dialogues were discussed; i.e., instances where one made “assumptions or rushed to give advice” (p. 334). In the third step, Fallas-Escobar modeled an example of a critical dialogue. For the fourth step, the teachers’ posture towards translanguaging began to be explored. This led to the first critical dialogue session in which the work of Garcia and Li were discussed. In the second session, the teachers were asked to observe certain aspects of their language practices as well as those of their students. During the third session, the teachers were asked to experiment using translanguaging in their classrooms. Finally, for the fourth session, the teachers were asked if they had noticed any changes in their postures towards translanguaging. They were asked if they would use translanguaging in their classes on a regular basis.
The first teacher, Linda, was emphatic about using English-only in the classroom. Her rationale was that beginning students need to be exposed to as much English as possible. As the sessions progressed, Linda didn’t mind if her students used translanguaging between tasks; she would use translanguaging when it came to grammar examples or explaining vocabulary. By the last session, she stated that she used translanguaging beyond grammar and vocabulary.
The second teacher, Alex, had a degree in literature. She used translanguaging when it came to grammatical explanations and teaching literature; furthermore, she used bilingual materials. Her students used translanguaging between tasks and to negotiate meaning. For her, it was acceptable for beginner students to use translanguaging. Interestingly, she frowned on struggling students using translanguaging while she allowed proficient students to use it. Alex expressed relief that there is a theory behind translanguaging which validated her teaching.
The third teacher was Krista. Of the three, she had the hardest time with translanguaging. While her students used translanguaging between tasks or when she was not around, she did not. In the second session, she admitted to feeling frustrated when her students spoke their native languages. She stated, however, that translanguaging with lower proficiency students was acceptable. For the third session, she was supposed to use translanguaging, but she did not. Krista stated that her students’ reactions to her translanguaging caused her to revert to speaking in English. During the fourth session, Krista stated that she would not use translanguaging in her classroom. While translanguaging happened spontaneously with her students, it would not be part of her methodology nor lesson plan.
Overall, the teachers were ambivalent about using translanguaging and maintained the view of using English-only. Nevertheless, they admitted there were instances when translanguaging was helpful, such as when certain topics were taught. Despite the teachers’ ambivalence, the author was optimistic. For Fallas-Escobar, “…[EFL instructors] can come together to reconfigure their program and/or departments in ways that better respond to the need for sociolinguistic justice in EFL education: translanguaging being a reasonable entry point” (p. 342).
Effects of Teachers’ Language Ideologies on Language Teachers’ Translanguaging Practices In an Intensive English Program
By Peter Sayer and Mary Lou Vercellotti
Chapter 16 revolved around three ESL instructors at a university IEP program in the southern United States. This qualitative study drew from the works of Garcia and Li as well as Canagarajah. From Canagarajah, the authors borrowed the term translingual practice, which means the ways teachers and students use and mix their languages in order to reach meaning in English. The study involved two research questions: 1) How are teachers’ views of translanguaging connected to their teaching strategies? 2) How do teachers’ views on translanguaging affect their students’ use of translanguaging in the classroom?
The study followed a case study approach which consisted of the following elements. First, there were three teachers who were selected based on their differing views on translanguaging. Two of the teachers were not native English speakers. Nevertheless, they all held master’s degrees in TESL. Second, there were the students, who consisted of beginner and intermediate-level Arabic speakers from one of five Middle Eastern countries. They were studying at an IEP in the hopes of being accepted later into a college or university in the United States. Finally, the data were comprised of classroom observations and teacher interviews. The interviews were transcribed and later coded.
The data reveals interesting findings. Each teacher holds a different view of translanguaging. The first teacher is Sally; she is a native English speaker who stated that translanguaging does not occur in her classroom. Furthermore, she does not allow her students to use their L1. During her third observation, Sally admits that her students did use translanguaging in group activities. For her, students who rely on their L1 are using it as a crutch. She thinks that if ESL students can be weaned from using their L1, they can learn English more quickly. Sally sees translanguaging as a last resort. It is neither a technique nor teaching strategy. Instead, she views translanguaging as a problem.
The second teacher is Nasser. As a native Arabic speaker, he sees the use of L1 as a means to solve problems and save time. Furthermore, when students collaborate and share in their L1, their skills improve in L2. Interestingly, when students share the same L1, they will naturally converse in it regardless of their English proficiency. Even if teachers prohibit students from using their L1, they will still use it “to work through assignments and solve problems” (p. 356). Nasser views translanguaging as a natural process.
The third teacher is Valorie. She is a native Spanish speaker who views the use of L1 and language mixing as a resource. As an immigrant, Valorie is sensitive to her students’ educational needs. As a result, her students can freely use their L1. She also allows her students to use bilingual dictionaries. Valorie understands that translanguaging assists in higher-order thinking. She also understands that there are times when English should be used. In the end, she views translanguaging as a “strategic, systematic, and planned phenomenon” (p. 358). Thus, she views translanguaging as a resource.
Sayers and Vercellotti noted that students in the three teachers’ classrooms responded differently when it came to translanguaging. Students in Mary’s classroom only used their L1 for clarification or when the teacher was not around. In contrast, students in Nasser and Valorie’s classrooms used translanguaging as a strategy whereby they communicated with their classmates and teachers. These students used translanguaging to communicate and make sense of concepts in English.
Despite the teachers having masters’ degrees in ESL, they held varying language ideologies when it came to translanguaging. Therefore, the roles of teacher education programs and MA-TESOL programs, TESOL workshops, and professional development cannot be overlooked. For Sayers and Vercellotti, “[They] should train the ESL teachers how to treat the various languages that exist in their ESL class” (p. 361).
Translanguaging as Transformation in TESOL
By Peter Sayer
Chapter 17 is the final chapter of the book. Here, the earlier articles are revisited and subsumed into one of four perspectives. They are 1) theorizing translanguaging in TESOL; 2) translanguaging in TESOL teacher education; 3) translanguaging in the TESOL classroom; and 4) future directions and challenges for translanguaging in TESOL.
In the first stance, the theory holds translanguaging as central to the theoretical and pedagogical aspects of multilingualism in TESOL. This first stance can be subdivided further into two sub-groups; i) the ‘named language’ problem and using multilingual resources versus ii) ‘good English’ problem.
Translanguaging wants to disrupt the myth that languages are separate, discrete entities. What qualifies as a language is nothing more than a social construction, such as the case of Standard American English (SAE). Nevertheless, SAE has real-world consequences for teachers and students alike (p. 366).
As for the ‘good English’ problem, it is noted how language mixing (i. e. code-switching) is viewed as a deficit model that was either a crutch or barrier to second language learning. The use of L1 is seen as subtractive because it limited students’ exposure to and use of English. These views contrast with the chapters in this book; they regard L1 as a means for a student to learn L2. Hall contends that L1 use in the L2 classroom is not a recent phenomenon. It has been used by experienced teachers for some time. In a post method world, ESL teachers are afforded the opportunity to “theorize about and share insights” in what translanguaging has to offer the L2 classroom (p. 366).
The second stance involves translanguaging in TESOL teacher education. The six chapters in part two of the book cover teacher education. The author admits that translanguaging for pre and in-service teachers is a challenge. Teachers have been taught that monolingual teaching approaches are the crux to L2 learning. Asking them to adopt a multilingual approach goes against their core beliefs. To counter this, Sayer calls for teacher education programs to address translanguaging much as they do monolingual teaching approaches. It is key for pre and in-service teachers to understand the role that language, culture, and power play in L2 learning. Even in cases where translanguaging is taught to these teachers, there can be a backlash. This was the case with Andrei et al.. Their students had a difficult time accepting translanguaging. Andrei et al. found that creating a classroom where ideas can be debated, challenged, and discussed were at the heart of a translanguaging classroom.
For the third stance, translanguaging in the TESOL classroom, content-based learning through translanguaging was explored. Because content learning was primary, the use of monolingual teaching approaches was not critical. In the Netherlands, migrant and minority languages were used in the classes. As such, “students were exposed to language awareness, language comparison, receptive multilingualism, CLIL, and language immersion” (p. 369).
Sayer noted how it is important to demonstrate how translingualism works in classes where students and teachers speak different L1 languages. He gives the example of the students and teacher assistant who had an aha! moment when they found out that they shared the same word in their first languages: colíbri. Sayer also examined the importance of teachers’ stances towards translanguaging and its use in the L2 classroom.
Fallas-Escobar noted how the three teachers in his study took a different stance to translanguaging. One saw translanguaging as a conscientious act; another viewed it as a natural process while the third viewed it as a process to be done judiciously. From this study and Agai’s, the author found that translanguaging can be transformative. It allowed a group of teachers to understand how their language ideologies affected their teaching practices.
In the fourth stance, translanguaging is viewed as having a place in the TESOL classroom. Translanguaging is able to blur the lines between languages and can be used across nationalities, age groups, cultural groups, language backgrounds, and teaching methods. It can be subdivided into 1) translanguaging and TESOL methods, 2) translanguaging as a social justice orientation, and 3) transforming language ideologies in TESOL.
The previous chapters demonstrated that translanguaging can work with different teaching methods. Nevertheless, translanguaging itself is not a set of steps nor a recipe to be followed. According to Sayer, “[It] is a set of related strategies that embodies the principles of flexible multilingualism” (p. 371).
In terms of social justice, translanguaging elevates L1. In doing so, it provides greater social equality for L2 speakers. This is particularly true for students who belong to marginalized language and cultural groups. Chapters 9 and 10 push the field of TESOL to move beyond the idea of learning English for economic capital. English learning can contribute to decolonization and language maintenance.
Finally, translanguaging can transform language ideologies in TESOL. The authors view translanguaging as a linguistic ideology of resistance (p. 373). It embraces social justice in L2 instruction. Translanguaging is a powerful tool that gives teachers the opportunity to question their own language ideologies. As such, teachers can shift their views of L1 use in the L2 classroom. Nevertheless, Andrei et al. admit that translanguaging has a way to go. They note how the TESOL professional standards did not include translanguaging as “the knowledge of language processes that teacher candidates should demonstrate” (p. 373). Despite this omittance, translanguaging is occurring worldwide. In the Netherlands’ early childhood language curriculum, it calls for translanguaging as a means to promote plurilingualism and a bridge between different cultures. The Netherlands and the other countries mentioned in this book demonstrate that translanguaging is being implemented around the world from pre-kindergarten to university classrooms. Translanguaging is challenging the hegemonic monolingual language practices and calling for “connections between the diverse identities of students” (p. 373). In closing, this book can be summed up in five words: translanguaging is here to stay.
As the book documents and describes, the field of TESOL clinged to an English-only policy for some time, but times have changed and the tides have shifted toward a translanguaging approach to English language teaching. For teachers new to English language teaching, it offers a historical foundation for understanding the current practices and trends. For veteran teachers, it provides a recollection of times experienced and current practices, and ways forward for the future. For educators in contexts that find a need for an English-only approach, it offers insight into how the field of TESOL has evolved and where it is currently directed. The text is comprehensive and there is something for all TESOL educators.