English-Language Learners Video

‘Translanguaging Is What Bilinguals and Multilinguals Do’: A Primer for Teachers

By Ileana Najarro & Jaclyn Borowski — May 28, 2024 3:47
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Translanguaging is one of the practices general education teachers can use in classrooms to support English learners as they access academic content.

It’s the ability multilingual individuals possess to fluidly move between and simultaneously access two or more languages.

It’s also a pedagogical approach to teaching that is gaining traction, and not only to help English learners, said Ryan Pontier, an assistant professor at Florida International University looking at the ways teachers draw on their languages as they are supporting students.

English-only instruction policies and mindsets through which translanguaging only serves as a scaffold for learning English can be barriers to ensuring true translanguaging happens in classrooms. But Pontier offers advice on how all teachers, including those who are monolingual, can support the practice.

To Pontier and other researchers, denying students the ability to translanguage denies them access to learning in a way that is representative of who they are as individuals.

“When we create intentional spaces and intentional tasks to be bilingual, to be multilingual, to produce something that draws on two or more languages, then what we’re doing is we’re actually pushing back against existing policies, we’re becoming more transgressive. That’s part of the trans nature of translanguaging,” Pontier said.

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Ileana Najarro is a reporter for Education Week covering race and opportunity in schools across the country.
Jaclyn Borowski is the director of photography and videography for Education Week.

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