Beyond Multilingualism - Translanguaging in Education

Language ideologies in education often assume that successful learning is dependent on teaching of and through separate, academic, languages. Common-sense arguments hold that learners’ everyday communicative practices should remain outside the classroom, allowing academic language the space to prosper inside the classroom. In this talk we argue that a more appropriate pedagogy is one which creates the conditions for students’ flexible communicative practices to take centre stage in education. We propose that ethnographic drama offers an opportunity.

Translanguaging in education faces challenges on at least two fronts. First, ‘translanguaging’ continues to be conceptualized linguistically. Much progress has been made in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics to develop new understandings of multilingualism and multilingual practice in education. But translanguaging is not a synonym for bilingualism, or for multilingualism. There is more to be done to shift into the mainstream understanding of translanguaging as embodied communication. Second, and relatedly, translanguaging is still the exception in education. In order for flexible communicative practice to play a leading role in the classroom, translanguaging must emerge from the shadows into the spotlight. This requires that translanguaging becomes everyday practice inside the classroom, as it is outside the classroom.

A creative, non-threatening way to bring translanguaging practice into the classroom is through ethnographic drama. In ethnographic drama we show each other the world, and show the full range of our semiotic repertoire. We make the familiar strange, enabling students to reflect on experience, and develop critical skills – to consider, evaluate, validate, and advocate. Ethnographic drama brings the outside in, moving students, teachers, and audiences closer to consideration of what is true, and what is of value. It is the combination of ethnographic drama, with its purchase on the real through the dramatic, and translanguaging, with its holistic conceptualization of the semiotic repertoire, that holds much promise for education in superdiverse societies.

Cool Assemblages: beyond multilingualism in the Arctic Economic hotspots

A wealth of research has convincingly shown us how important the recognition and management of multilingualism is for economic, social and political processes and practices. We have also learnt that multilingualism can come in different shapes, scopes and volumes. However, we know less about how multilingualism works with the material and affective aspects of economic and political processes and practices. We know even less about how language, materiality and affect interact and what do they produce together. In this talk, I want to further explore this productive interaction between language, materiality and affect in the context of the Cold Rush, an accelerated race for Arctic natural resources, fueled by the actual and speculative transformations of commons into commodities (Pietikäinen 2021a, 2021b)). Examples of these interactions include turning ordinary berries into superberries, valuing mining work as a good job, and driving in the dark Arctic night into a Northern lights hunt. I will discuss the ways in which the concept of assemblage by Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) can be applied to grasp some aspects of this complex, emergent interaction and I will move beyond multilingualism without losing the sight of the critical and creative dimensions of language.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1980/1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massuni. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Pietikäinen, Sari. 2021a. "Powered by Assemblage: Language for Multiplicity". International Journal of The Sociology of Language 2021 (267-268): 235-240. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2020-0074.

Pietikäinen, Sari. 2021b. "Assemblage of Art, Discourse and Ice Hockey: Designing Knowledge about Work". Journal of Sociolinguistics. doi:10.1111/josl.12470.


Opening minds to translanguaging pedagogies: perspectives and practices of professionals in early childhood education and primary school

In Europe, migration, mobility, technology and globalisation have resulted in multilingualism at both the societal and the individual level. These changes require policymakers and educationalists to adapt teaching. For the past few decades, institutions and scholars have called for multilingual education programmes that recognise the existence of the multiple languages spoken by children. The policies of the Council of Europe encourage ‘pluralistic approaches’ as well as early language learning. In the United States, García and her team developed multilingual pedagogies, later called translanguaging pedagogies, that draw on the students’ entire semiotic repertoire to leverage their learning. Research findings in monolingual, bilingual and multilingual contexts testify to the benefits of translanguaging for learning, well-being and identity-building. Such programmes are in line with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, which demands respect for children’s languages, cultures and values. While multilingual programmes have been implemented in early childhood education and primary schools in several countries in Europe, professionals seem to be unsure of how to promote multilingualism and deal with language diversity.

This presentation is based on the perspectives and practices of professionals in early childhood education (ECE) and primary schools in multilingual Luxembourg, where a programme of plurilingual education was implemented in ECE in 2017 and where primary school children follow a trilingual curriculum. I will provide insights into the perspectives of practitioners by drawing on five research projects carried out in Luxembourg over the last six years. I will present excerpts from interviews and observations that indicate that early years practitioners have opened up to multilingual education over the past few years and are tackling the multiple challenges they face during the implementation of the multilingual programme. Translanguaging also exists in primary schools but a clear language hierarchy is in place and teachers and children do not draw on their entire semiotic repertoire. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the implications for practitioners and policymakers.