What Is Translanguaging, And How Is The Concept Being Used?

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We tend to think of languages as distinct entities. Learning a language requires you to focus only on the grammar and vocabulary of that particular language. There is a danger in mixing together old and new languages, because you should be fluent in the new one by now. This way of thinking, on the other hand, is completely at odds with reality. There is commonly a mixture of two or more languages in ordinary conversation between monolinguals and bilinguals. “Translanguaging” is a term used to describe this phenomena.

Translanguaging is a relatively recent concept in the field of linguistics. It’s only been popular in the last two decades as a counterpoint to the widely held belief among monolinguals that the human brain processes languages independently. To begin, let’s take a closer look at the phrase “translanguaging” and how it might change our understanding of language.

Translanguaging As a Concept Defined

Because different individuals describe it in different ways, it’s difficult to pin down the exact meaning of the term “translanguaging.” The term “translanguaging” has been the subject of much controversy among linguists, although there is no universally accepted meaning for the term. It’s important to keep that disclaimer in mind while looking at different people’s use of the phrase.


One of Cen Williams’ unpublished works in the 1980s referred to trawsieithu, the Welsh word for “translanguaging,” and he developed this phrase. For Williams, the word “biliteracy” had a specific meaning: it referred to students being able to converse in both English and Welsh in the same class.

Since then, numerous scholars have used the word to explain the usage of different languages in the same context. Language instruction is one of its most prevalent applications. Teaching students to speak two or more languages in the classroom is known as translanguaging. This differs from the majority of second-language instruction, which teaches just one language at a time.

The term “translanguaging” may also be used to refer to the practise of employing two or more languages at the same time. There are several ways this can occur. Translanguaging occurs when two persons who are fluent in two languages converse in both languages at the same time. Translanguaging occurs when a tourist tries to converse with someone who speaks a different language than they do. Translanguaging occurs if two or more languages are spoken in the same context.

There is a great deal of disagreement on the meaning of the terms “bilingual” and “multilingual” when the phrase “translanguaging” is used. An ongoing controversy has raged for decades over the assumption that a bilingual is “two monolinguals in one.”

Whether or not the brain processes several languages independently or collectively is an important subject to consider. It is said by proponents of translanguaging that the brain perceives all languages as one, and so it is impossible to distinguish between Spanish and French in a bilingual Spanish-French speaker. Many people support this theory, but it hasn’t gained widespread acceptance.

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Why Do People Use Code-Switching And Translanguaging?

Code-switching is another often used word to describe the process of switching between languages. It’s possible that you’ll mistake the two if you’re already familiar. Fair enough, as the variances in language approach do generate some confusion.

For more than half a century, code-switching has been studied in the field of linguistics. The most common method of studying code-switching is to listen to people’s speech and figure out how and why they transition from one language to another.

Studying “grammar” of code-switching since the assumption behind it is that something in the brain governs how it works is the subject of many research. Coding has been linked to the “two monolinguals in one” theory of bilingualism.

Even among linguists, though, code-switching has acquired a distinct connotation. The term “code-switch” is sometimes used to describe how people alter their behaviour depending on the situation.

When a youngster is with their friends or their parents, they may behave in a different way. The word “code-switch” is frequently used when discussing race and the way black people and other people of colour interact with whites. In addition to Code Switch, NPR provides a podcast dedicated to the topic of race. However, this is a helpful notion in and of itself, but it has no connection to linguistics.

As opposed to being a specific area of study, translanguaging serves more as a conceptual framework for examining how people interact with language. Instead than focusing on separate languages, dialects, and spoken words, translanguaging focuses on displaying how all of these things are intertwined.

Translanguaging, in contrast to code-switching, takes a closer look at the people who speak the language. To paraphrase a proponent of translanguaging, Ofelia Garca: “Translanguaging is more than just translating across languages; it is looking at the speaker’s language usage from the inside out.” According to this line of reasoning, we need to remove some of the linguistic barriers preventing us from fully comprehending multilingualism.

However, the broad definition of translanguaging is constantly in change. Translanguaging and code-switching can be referred to in a variety of ways. It’s likely that the phrase “code-switching” will continue to be used by non-specialists, despite the fact that the two aren’t exactly the same thing.

Translating And Teaching

For the most part, translanguaging has been used primarily for educational purposes, notably for children. Once upon a time, the conventional wisdom held that the most effective approach to raising a bilingual kid was to teach each language on its own. In recent years, several instructors have started trying out a different approach.

Three language teachers outlined some specific strategies for teaching two languages at the same time in an article for Language Magazine. Students were required to compose multilingual texts and learn how to navigate between languages as part of the course work.

It’s a more holistic approach to learning, and it involves careful preparation to ensure that the two languages are being given equal attention. As they put it: “Translanguaging activity offered a place for my emergent bilingual students to harness their whole language repertoires, boosting the development of crucial literacy skills and enhancing their learning experience.”

This method of teaching isn’t universally seen as a success. To teach two languages at the same time would be ineffective, according to many linguists, who think that each language has its own grammar.

Using this paradigm, more individuals are likely to experiment with innovative ways of teaching bilingualism in the future. It’s becoming more popular in regions where kids are already bilingual because it meets the students where they are in terms of their educational background.

If you can take away anything from this, though, it is that there are already billions of individuals around the globe who do not give any thought to the fact that they speak multiple languages at the same time.

Focusing on “correct” speech restricts our perception of the world’s diversity, even if monolingualism is popular in the western world. Translanguaging may become the standard in the future since communication is complex.

Aman Jha

Aman Jha is a digital marketing author, passionate writer, and consultant. He is a sucker for fine words and blogs about digital marketing and startups at maxzob.com.

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