What is translanguaging and how can it help us understand and design language programmes in migrant and refugee settings?
by Tim Yates

What is translanguaging and how can it help us understand and design language programmes in migrant and refugee settings?

Workshop registration open:

Location: University of Reading, Edith Morley Building, Room 124
Date: Wednesday 25 October 2017. 3-6pm.

Your workshop leads: 

Dr Tony Capstick, University of Reading.

Dr Jean Conteh, University of Leeds.

Who should attend? Researchers and Language Teachers

The concept of translanguaging is increasingly applied to the study of complex and hybrid multilingual practices that migrants develop and use in their everyday lives. In contrast to code-switching which refers to a shift between two languages, translanguaging foregrounds users’ construction and use of original and complex interrelated discursive practices that cannot be easily assigned to one or another traditional definition of language, but that make up the speakers’ complete language repertoire (Garcia and Wei 2014: 22). Work in this area understands bilingualism as being underpinned by one language system rather than separate monolingualisms. Drawing on an individual’s entire repertoire in this way has implications for how we understand language learning in classroom settings.

In this workshop we explore this position with reference to language classrooms in the UK, the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Lebanon.

We begin by discussing methodologies for exploring translanguaging using classroom interaction, examples of learners’ written texts, interviews and participant observation. Next we look at examples from Jean’s work studying multilingual primary classrooms in the UK. With evidence from these classrooms Jean demonstrates the benefits across the curriculum when learners work in the languages they know best (Conteh 2015). This is followed by examples from Tony’s work in mixed classrooms of host community, refugees and internally displaced persons in Lebanon and Iraq. Exploring the linguistic and cultural diversity of these classroom shifts the focus away from the English-dominant west and applies a translanguaging lens to classroom interaction at times of heightened mobility.

Participants will be provided with opportunities to look at the empirical evidence and discuss the benefits of a translingual pedagogy for these diverse groups of learners. The workshop will conclude with potential ways forward for working within a translanguaging paradigm when designing language programmes for migrant and refugee communities.

Related research at CeLM:

***ESRC-GCRF Project*** 

The protective role of language in global migration and mobility: language policies and practices in refugee settings (ProLanguage)


Conteh, J. (2015) ‘Funds of knowledge’ for achievement and success: multilingual pedagogies for mainstream primary classrooms in England. In: P. Seedhouse and C. Jenks (eds.) International Perspectives on ELT Classroom Interaction, pp. 49-63. Palgrave Macmillan.

Garcia, O. and Li Wei. (2014) Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Palgrave Macmillan.

To register please email Kate Benyon: k.l.benyon@reading.ac.uk


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Bilingualism Matters provides training, advice and information on child bilingualism.