|B-004| Bilingualism and Translanguaging

Hello Exam Seekers,

For those who are entering the bilingual education world, today’s post will help you get more familiar with some terms.

I’ve been reading about the subject since I’m taking courses in bilingual education and I’ve decided to share a bit with you all so that you can start thinking about entering this whole new world – for those who are already immersed in it, knowledge is never enough! 🙂


What is the Bilingual Education?

It is the use of two languages as a medium of instruction. It doesn’t really matter the languages (Portuguese/Spanish, Japanese/Mandarin, French/English, etc), however, most schools tend to use English as one of these languages. For countries that have English as the first language, they usually go for Spanish or French for the second language.

Wallace Lambert in 1974 divided the bilingual education into two:

Subtractive: in which schools would take away the home language (child speaks minoritized language) and substitute with a majority language.

Additive: in which schools would build on the child’s language, as the additional language is learned.

However, these terms seem  insufficient in the 21st so, in 2009, Ofelia Garcia worked on two other terms:

Recursive: this would be a form of bilingualism which comes from a complex and dynamic nature for those who underwent substantial language shifts. And for those people, there would be programs to help organize their language, for example: Immersion Revitalization Bilingual Education Programs and Developmental Bilingual Education programs. These programs are usually found in language minoritized communities that have undergone some degree of language loss, but have not suffered the language shift of those who need immersion.

Dynamic: this would be a form of bilingualism from people who have multiple languages interactions and other linguistic interrelationships that take place on different scales and spaces among multilingual speakers.

But how are the languages taught?

Well, schools have named this bilingual system as dual-language, two-way bilingual education, two-way immersion, poly directional bilingual education, bilingual immersion, etc. In these places, the idea is to teach students with diverse language practices. They usually use two or three language as a media of instruction and in literacy instruction.

So, teachers have to use this other language at all times to instruct/teach. That’s when the term Translanguaging shows up.


What is Translanguaging?

As the word says, trans means transformative, trans-system/trans-space, transdisciplinary. It was a term coined in Welsh by Gen. Williams (2002) to refer to a practice of deliberately changing the language of input and output. He refers to a pedagogic theory that involves students’ learning two languages through a process of deep cognitive bilingual engagement.

But tanslanguaging goes beyond code-switching. AL Becker (1995) said that learning a new language is like learning a new way of being in the world, therefore using the languages in a different way as you learn them. Many studies say that translanguaging is important for literacy development because students develop the agency to use their entire semiotic system.

There are some strategies that Translanguaging brings:

  • Teacher’s attentiveness to meaning making.
  • Teacher’s use of classroom resources for translanguaging.
  • Teacher’s design of classroom and curriculum structures for translanguaging.

Where does one learn to translanguage?

It is unlikely that schools will accommodate translanguaging as more than what it is today, an adaptive space. An established translanguaging space in schools would require more. It would require that translanguaging practices be accepted, for example, an assessment, since a bilingual student’s linguistic repertoire cannot be measured in a single language. And it would demand that we stop penalizing students who translanguage” (Garcia, 2014).



Other authors mention other aspects of bilingual education: Immersion and Submersion.

Submersion, Withdrawal Classes and Transitional approaches are often given the title of bilingual education [… because they] contain bilingual children. This counts as a “weak” use of the term bilingual education because bilingualism is not fostered in school. Such education does not, by aim, content or structure, have bilingualism as a defined outcome.

Colin Baker talks about immersion education (2001), which has bilingualism as an intended outcome – he uses the term “strong use of the term bilingual education”. Alongside this “strong use”, he mentions “strong form of bilingual education”, in which language minority use their native, ethnic, home or heritage language in the school as a medium of instruction and the goal is full bilingualism. According to him the native language is protected and developed alongside the development in the majority language.

This immersion movement started in St. Lambert, Montreal, in 1965 (Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Rebuffot, 1993), when parents worried about their children learning a second language persuaded school district administrators to set up an experimental kindergarten bilingual class of 26 children. The stated aims were for students

  • to become competent to speak, read and write in French;
  • to reach normal achievement levels throughout the curriculum including the English language;
  • to appreciate the traditions and culture of French-speaking.

The aims of this bilingual education were for children to produce bilingual language and to become biliterate and multicultural without loss of achievement.


How would a bilingual education occur?

The staff in these usual language classrooms should be bilingual. Teachers could speak both languages on different occasions with the students. However, switching languages within a lesson is not considered helpful. If language mixing by the teacher occurs, students may wait until there is delivery in their stronger language and become uninvolved at other times.

And subjects would be divided: different lessons may use different languages with a regular change over to ensure both languages are used in all curricular areas. For example, Spanish may be used to teach Mathematics on Monday and Wednesday and Friday; English to teach Mathematics on Tuesday and Thursday.

One important thing that Baker points out is that all subjects should be taught in both languages, or at least, the person responsible for the division should be very careful if they are dividing the subjects my content. Why? Well, imagine this scenery: the majority language used for science and technology and the minority language is used for social studies. When this kind of division happens, the majority language will be associated with modern technology and science, while the minority language will be associated with tradition and culture. According to Baker, this may affect the status of the language in the eyes of the child, parents and society. The relationship of languages to employment prospects, economic advantage and power thus need to be considered.


Well, this was just some info about Bilingual Education. The information above was taken from the books:

  • GARCÍA, O.; WEI, L.. The handbook of bilingual and multilingual education:  Translanguaging, bilingualism and bilingual education. (p. 223-240)
  • BAKER, C. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (2001) (pg205-240 cap 10 e 11)

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Have a great weekend,

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