Ofelia García

Translanguaging entre mundos and language education

Language education, whether considered “second,” “bilingual,” “foreign,” “heritage” or “native,” leaves out the possibility that students could live entre mundos. And yet, in most language classrooms today students are living and speaking in borderlands that do not correspond to the nation-state’s definitions of what is “native,” what is “foreign,” or even what is “bilingual.” This presentation focuses on imagining what language education might look like if we started from the entre mundos of students’ lived and linguistic realities. This entre mundos requires the sociolinguist and the educator to differentiate between the internal language system of speakers that are always mobile, and the external named language that is often the object of instruction. Translanguaging refers to this theoretical position, a position that requires sociolinguists and educators to move across, and beyond, the boundaries of named languages to take into account and privilege the language of people.

To advance language education it would be necessary for educators to take up translanguaging. Through three classroom examples, we show how a “foreign language” teacher, a “second language” teacher, and a “bilingual” teacher miss opportunities to engage students’ languaging and to enhance learning because they see language solely as “English” or “Spanish” that are autonomous and separate. The presentation shows how it is possible to take up translanguaging so that students appropriate features of a “new” language as part of their own language repertoire (rather than as the language of the U.S. or of Mexico or of school or of the classroom). We show how a translanguaging approach enables students to use language as one more semiotic tool, a way of making meaning and relating to others, and selecting linguistic features creatively and critically.