Sei sulla pagina 1di 11


Translanguaging Practices and

Perspectives of Four Multilingual Teens
Shannon M. Daniel & Mark B. Pacheco

In English-­only environments, multilingual students productively use

languages other than English to support their learning.

Aung: Oh, no. I did one time in English 1.
ung (all student and school names are Mr. Anderson, he is the English teacher, and
pseudonyms) is a resettled refugee who, he asked us to write an essay, and I had no
­until 2011 when she and her family moved idea what to write. And he’s like, “You have to
to the United States, spent most of her life in Thai turn this in by today!” And he’s like, “Write the
refugee camps because of civil unrest in Myanmar. ­essay!” So, I don’t know. I write all, I write with
Because she uses four languages, Aung often draws the Burmese language. And then when I turn it
on these languages to accomplish her academic and in, he’s like, “Can you translate?” So, I did trans-
personal goals. Yet, in a school system in which late, but it’s kinda wrong, ‘cause I don’t really
English is dominant, only her achievements in know how to translate at that time.
English are recognized. The following conversation
reveals the ever-­present tensions in a multilingual, Aung’s experience sheds light on how multilin-
transnational teen’s life: gual teens agentively choose to use languages other
than English (LOTEs) to make sense of schoolwork
Shannon: Since even though these languages are often ignored or dis-
you moved to the couraged. Yet, how could Mr. Anderson recognize
U.S., do any of and build on Aung’s language use, and what other
your teachers ways does she use and benefit from her knowledge of
encourage you to four languages throughout the school day?
Authors (left to right)
use your other We explore these questions by examining four
Shannon M. Daniel is a lecturer
languages? specializing in language, literacy, teens’ perspectives of using LOTEs to make sense of
and culture in the Department
of Teaching and Learning at the world in and out of school. First, we frame students’
Aung: I don’t Vanderbilt University’s Peabody strategic use of multiple languages as translanguaging,
remember. College, Nashville, TN, USA; e-­mail or the practices associated with moving across lan-
Shannon: Do they Mark B. Pacheco is a doctoral guages and registers of speech to make meaning
student in the Department of
ever say anything Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt (O. García, 2009). Next, we explore these practices
about Karenni or University’s Peabody College, through elicited firsthand accounts of how teens use
Nashville, TN, USA.
Burmese or Thai? language and how their dispositions toward language, 1

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy  xx(x) xx/xx 2015  doi:10.1002/jaal.500  © 2015 International Literacy Association  (pp. 1–11)

or language ideologies (Martínez, Hikida, & Durán, within the individual. Ideologies can be articulated by
2015), might influence this use. We then make peda- an individual or embodied in that individual’s activi-
gogical recommendations that build on students’ strate- ties, and there is an important relationship between the
gic translanguaging to achieve goals. Ultimately, we two (Martínez et al., 2015). For teachers, knowing why
seek to support teachers of multilingual students in students use language is critical for informing how that
building on students’ language practices, especially language can be leveraged in instruction.
teachers who are unfamiliar with translanguaging peda- Ideologies concerning students’ heritage lan-
gogies and do not share students’ knowledge of LOTEs. guages can pose significant challenges to incorporat-
ing LOTEs into instruction. Although scholarship on
language learning and bilingualism suggests that an
Translanguaging: Practices and individual’s first language can support the acquisition
Ideologies in the Classroom of a second (Antón & DiCamilla, 1998; Cummins,
Language is a resource for making meaning. O. 2007), and students’ heritage languages can be pro-
García’s (2009) concept of translanguaging suggests ductively integrated into English as a second language
that linguistic resources (i.e., knowledge of multiple and content area classrooms (Lucas & Katz, 1994),
languages and dialects) are part of a single language English-­only instruction continues to be the norm in
system that an individual uses to create meaning and most U.S. schools. For this reason, even prominent
accomplish goals. As students and educators translan- models of English-­dominant sheltered instruction in-
guage, or flexibly move across languages and registers clude some attention to integrating students’ first lan-
of speech, students can develop their proficiencies in guages (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008). We contend
multiple languages (Cummins, 2007), deepen their that greater attention to students’ actual translanguag-
metalinguistic awareness (Martin-­Beltrán, 2014), and ing practices and ideologies will lead to more effective
strengthen important components of their reading pedagogical planning that leverages teens’ LOTEs.
comprehension tool kits, such as summarizing and Furthermore, students, teachers, and families
understanding vocabulary (Jiménez et al., 2015). can hold conflicting and complex attitudes toward
However, language is not something that a stu- heritage languages that might equate only English
dent simply “has” but a repeated and expansive prac- with legitimate school participation (Lee & Oxelson,
tice in which he or she continuously engages. 2006; Valdés, 2005). Educators must be aware of ide-
Translanguaging practices include code-­ switching, ological constraints on translanguaging, such as atti-
translating, and language brokering, or interpreting tudes toward language use in schools, and practical
between culturally and linguistically diverse individu- constraints, such as how to include multiple lan-
als (Tse, 1996). Because multilingual youths translan- guages in instruction when the teacher might not
x x(x) xx/xx 2015

guage daily (Martínez, Orellana, Pacheco, & speak these languages.

Carbone, 2008), teachers can and should leverage To address these challenges, we take a two-­
these practices by identifying connections between pronged approach in our study. We attempt to under-
activities valued in classrooms and students’ actual stand how multilingual students draw from linguistic
language practices. Understanding how a student resources to make sense of their worlds and how they

translates for a parent at the doctor, for example, perceive their language use across contexts. With the
could be productive in helping that student attend to goal of informing translanguaging pedagogies, we
text features when summarizing (Borrero, 2011). asked these two questions:
Translanguaging pedagogies must begin from the
bottom up, or build on the actual language practices of 1. How do multilingual students use LOTEs to
multilingual students (O. García, 2009). To do this, support meaning making?
educators can attend to how practices relate to lan- 2. How do students perceive their language use
guage ideologies, or student and teacher “beliefs, or and language abilities in and out of school?
feelings, about languages as used in their social worlds”
(Kroskrity, 2004, p. 498). These ideologies can include
perceptions about which languages hold power or pres- The Study
tige in academic and social spheres, are useful for jobs, Multiple Languages in English-­Only Schools
and should be incorporated into instruction. Ideologies Our study takes place in the larger context of public ed-
2 vary across populations, are fluid, and can even conflict ucation in the United States, where English-­dominant
schooling is the norm. Because English-­dominant edu- of a larger sample of 20 students. Participants were
cational settings and policies are often “subtractive in selected through criterion-­based purposive sampling
nature, ignoring the linguistic resources…students (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) to include a range of lin-
bring to the classroom” (E.E. García, 2005, p. 89), guistic proficiencies, ages, lengths of time in the
most scholars argue for dual-­ language programs. United States, and aspirations.
Nevertheless, English-­only educational policies con- With assumptions that teens participate in mul-
tinue to prevail, and the four students in this study at- tiple Discourses and their participation is responsive
tend school in a state where classrooms are English to their environments (Gee, 1996), we conducted
only by law. The students attend school in a semistructured interviews using Seidman’s (2006)
Southeastern U.S. city where the percentage of English three-­part structure that focuses on participants’ histo-
learners exceeds the national average. As a new immi- ries, details of experiences, and meaning making.
grant gateway city, over 70 languages are represented Interviews and observations reveal teens’ perceptions
among students from over 130 countries. on language use across contexts. We described and
theorized the data with open and axial coding of field
notes and interviews (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) and
Methods included codes such as “using strategies for success,”
Our findings derive from interview data across two “reflecting on language knowledge and value,” and
qualitative studies with multilingual learners in sec- “translanguaging for school” using HyperResearch.
ondary school settings (see Table 1). Shannon’s five-­ To establish trustworthiness, we served as peer de-
month ethnographic study takes place in an briefers for each other’s data analysis, triangulated
after-­school, refugee youth services program that is interview data with observations, and corroborated
held 2:00–5:00 p.m. daily in the students’ high findings through consultation with participants’ pro-
school. Data collection on the two teens from gram directors or teachers.
Shannon’s study included 20 days of observation with
field notes and videotaping, two interviews, and two
focus group interviews with both participants out of a Four Transnational Teens and
larger sample of 13 students. Mark’s study takes place Their Translanguaging Practices
over four weeks in an eighth-­grade English language Across four teens with varied language knowledge,
arts classroom. Data collection on the two teens en- histories, goals, and school contexts, patterns
tailed 12 days of observation with field notes and vid- emerged. First, all students indicated that their
eotaping and two interviews with each participant out LOTEs were not useful, or gave the impression that

Translanguaging Practices and Perspectives of Four Multilingual Teens

TABLE 1  Student Participants
Name Age and grade level Languages spoken Time in the United States School context

Mah-­nin 18, grade 12 Chin (NL), Approximately 4 years Oak High: 1,791 students:
Burmese, and (started school in March • Approximately 35% white,
English 2011) 28% Hispanic, 22% black, and
14% Asian
Aung 19, grade 12 Karenni (NL), Approximately 4 years • 25% of students labeled
Burmese, Thai, (started school in October English learners
and English 2011)
• 74% of students receive free or
reduced-price meals.

Rachel 15, grade 8 Spanish (NL) Approximately 2 years West Middle: 872 students:
and English (started grade 7 in 2010) • Approximately 48% Hispanic,
23% black, 21% white, and
Mertal 14, grade 8 Bahdini (NL), 14 years (born in the 7% Asian
Sorani, and United States) • 27% of students labeled English
English learners
• 92% of students receive free or
reduced-price meals.

Note. NL = student’s native language. 3


their languages were undervalued in school. Only Mah-nin: Yeah.

with additional questioning did we uncover how
Shannon: Do you ever take notes in Chin?
teens use their multiple languages. Second, inter-
views revealed that teens actively use LOTEs to make Mah-nin: No, I don’t take notes in Chin. In
sense of school. Third, all four teens envisioned a Burmese.
multilingual future for themselves, implying that Shannon: You take notes in Burmese?
making translanguaging a norm in U.S. schools
would support student learning. Next, we give a snap- Mah-nin: Yeah.
shot of each of the four learners and their perspectives Shannon: In what classes?
on translanguaging.
Mah-nin: Mmm, no. When I didn’t know the
Mah-­nin: “I’m Thinking Chin” thing, what it means, I wrote like Burmese lan-
Even though Mah-­nin is rarely encouraged to think guage. Every class, I guess.
about or use LOTEs in school, she told us that Chin
Here, Mah-­nin articulated how multiple languages
is ever present in her mind. Having grown up in
support her schoolwork and how she is almost always
Myanmar speaking Chin and Burmese, she thinks in
“thinking Chin” in classes.
Chin when listening to teachers speak in English and
While talking through academic content and tak-
when studying for examinations. She also uses
ing notes in Burmese, Mah-­nin constantly processes
Burmese daily with friends in the after-­ school
content in Chin, her mother tongue. These strategies
suggest that her first language is always active (Cook,
Nevertheless, when Shannon asked Mah-­ nin
about her language use, Mah-­ nin negated using
LOTEs: Mah-nin: Like I’m study, when we take a test,
Shannon: So, when you’re in school, when do we have to study, right? We have to write, like,
you use Chin? put in our brain.

Mah-nin: You mean here or in my country? Shannon: So, when you study, do you write a lot
or just read a lot?
Shannon: Here.
Mah-nin: Yeah, I read and put in my mind.
Mah-nin: I don’t use my language here.
Shannon: And repeat a lot in your mind?
Shannon: What about Burmese?
Mah-nin: Yeah.
x x(x) xx/xx 2015

Mah-nin: Yeah, I use Burmese when I have a

friend in class, the same, we have the same class. Shannon: In what language do you repeat a lot?
I speak with them Burmese. Mah-nin: In my language.
Shannon: Let’s say you’re in government class, Shannon: In Chin?
and I’m the government teacher, and I’m talk-

Mah-nin: Yeah.
ing about legislation and executive branch and
judicial branch and all that stuff. In your head,
Each day, Mah-­nin uses three languages to make
are you thinking in Chin or Burmese or English
sense of schoolwork, responsibilities, and leisure ac-
tivities. Spending time with Mah-­nin and Aung in an
Mah-nin: I’m thinking Chin. informal environment made clear how they move be-
tween LOTEs and English with grace and ease. One
Shannon: Chin? afternoon, for instance, Mah-­nin showed Aung the
faux brochure she was making on Germany for her
social studies class. The girls engaged in rapid
“On their own volition, these Burmese dialogue. When checking their work against
teens participate in effective the teacher’s written directions, they switched to
English, switched back to Burmese, and then sought
4 translanguaging practices.” the program director’s help in English. Interestingly,
Mah-­nin thinks in Chin but takes notes in Burmese. Shannon: So, she’s speaking in English, and you
Although our interviews did not reveal her perspec- write in Burmese? Later, you think about it and
tives on why she writes in Burmese instead of Chin, a translate back to English?
possible reason for this choice might be that the
Aung: Yep, yep. The first year when I come
Burmese notes helped her in talking with her friends
here, I use the dictionary. And then the second
who share the Burmese language, whereas the num-
year, I can live without dictionary.
ber of peers who speak Chin was much smaller.
What value, though, does she place on her use of Shannon asked if using LOTEs is helpful, and Aung
LOTEs? Shannon asked Mah-­nin which languages agreed. Nevertheless, Aung explained,
are important and why. Despite using Burmese and
Chin to make sense of school, Mah-­nin views English If you always use your language, it’s like you’re
as most important for her future, whereas Chin is val- not really learning English. Just [use LOTEs]
ued mainly to connect with her past. sometimes when it’s really needed….I mean,
In her words, Chin was important “because I you should speak in English….If you speak in
your language, it’s like you don’t really want to
have to know my cultural language.” English is valu-
learn English.
able because “after high school, I have to work, so I
have to speak better English and to write English.” This language ideology about which languages
Even though Mah-­nin is “thinking Chin,” she does should be used conflicts with Aung’s visions for her
not seem to value this translanguaging as a resource- future. Since age 9, she has dreamed of becoming a
ful practice, likely because the English-­ dominant flight attendant, which was strengthened when she
school environment does not encourage her to do so. first experienced air travel on her way to the United
Furthermore, she said that she had no Burmese peers States. Aung excitedly described her motivations:
in her classes, which limited her abilities to translan-
guage for academic meaning making during the Because you can serve people food and make
school day. people happy. And like, they feel sad on the
plane, or if they scared, you can treat them
Aung: “I Write It With Burmese” good, take care of them. Especially people don’t
The introduction to this article reveals how Aung stra- know how to speak, like refugee to the U.S.,
tegically translanguages when writing for school, they don’t know how to speak, and they want to
even though her teacher did not suggest, a­ cknowledge, eat or drink something, and they can’t say.
That’s not good for them. At least, like, if I can
or extend this practice. Aung speaks multiple lan-
speak Burmese or Karenni, and the refugee

Translanguaging Practices and Perspectives of Four Multilingual Teens

guages, including Burmese with her mom, Karenni
come from Thailand to the United States and
with her dad, and Thai with her sister. The following they need something, I can help them. So, just
excerpt further demonstrates how she takes notes in translate on the plane.
Burmese and uses translanguaging strategies:
Aung and Mah-­nin share the experience of enter-
Shannon: When you’re in science class, in your
ing the United States during high school. We now
head, you’re trying to understand, what lan-
turn to two eighth-­grade students, Mertal and Rachel,
guages do you use in your head?
to understand their perspectives on language. Like
Aung: In science class, I listen to what teachers Aung, Mertal sees his translanguaging abilities as
say. If I don’t know, I go ask her again, and I ask meaningful for his aspirations.
her to speak slow.
Shannon: So, your thinking is mostly in
Mertal: “I Want to Stay Close to My Hometown,
English? Or in your head, you translate between
My Relatives, and Everybody”
English and Karenni?
Speaking in multiple languages and developing his
Aung: Oh, sometime when they say and I cannot abilities to do so is important to Mertal in his current
understand, I write it down with Burmese. So, communities and the communities he imagines in
when she done talking and she let us do the work, his future. Born in the United States to Kurdish refu-
I go back and the one I write down and read all of gees, he prides himself on his abilities to not only
it, and I understand what she want us to do. speak Bahdini, Sorani, and some Arabic but also to 5

say a few words in the languages of his Thai, Mexican, Mark: Tell me why.
and Somali classmates. Having grown up in the
Mertal: Because I want to stay close to my home-
United States, Mertal speaks Bahdini with his par-
town, my relatives, and everybody. I feel like—
ents, the dialect of Kurdish that is most common in
it’s like a good feeling when you go over there.
their prior home of Zaxo, Kurdistan, and English and
You know everybody, you see, you feel protected.
Bahdini with his older brother.
Mertal wants to move back to Kurdistan after col- Despite Mertal’s recognition that his languages
lege. To facilitate this dream, his dad teaches him to impact his sense of belonging in multiple communi-
read and write in Bahdini. Mertal is also learning to ties, we see the same pattern as with Aung and Mah-­
read and write in Arabic by participating in weekly nin: None of the students identified using LOTEs in
religious studies at the mosque. Recently, he has be- school until pressed with more specific questions:
gun learning Sorani, another Kurdish language, with
his friends, and he watches television shows in Arabic, Mark: How do you feel about speaking Bahdini
Bahdini, and English with his family. in school?
Mertal perceives his multilingualism as a means Mertal: I mean, I feel, it’s OK. There’s nothing
to learn about different cultures, interact with more really great or anything.
people, and connect with others to build community:
Mark: Do you get chances to speak in Bahdini
I didn’t want to be racist, like American, like in school?
only learn one language….But I was happy to
learn that language, too, because there’s like Mertal: I mean, if I have to speak it, if I’m in
mostly all them continents like know English, so trouble, or if I need something, then yeah, I
I was happy for that and Kurdish. Kurdish, I was speak it, but, there’s not use to speaking it in
happy to know Kurdish, because, like, you go school, because you don’t need it.
you can talk to a Kurdish person, mostly a lot of
people know Kurdish in [this state]. You walk to Mark: OK. Um, would you want to use it?
Burger King and walk back, there was, like, one Mertal: I would—I would like to, like, pick it up
Kurdish guy and in like a Charger. He was like,
some more, like learn all the long words.
“You’re a Kurd,” and he was like, “OK, I’ll give
you a ride back home.” Mark: So, you want to learn more, but there’s
no chances?
For Mertal, being multilingual implies being able
to participate in communities unavailable to his Mertal: Yeah.
x x(x) xx/xx 2015

“American,” or monolingual, classmates. Mark: What about in your classes?

Furthermore, Mertal envisioned a multilingual
Mertal: No, it’s all English.
future in an imagined community in Kurdistan:
Mark: Totally English?
Mark: How do you think your parents feel about
English, you learning English? Mertal: Yeah. Sometimes, like Ali, he says a

couple words. He doesn’t know a lot of Kurdish,

Mertal: They’re all on board. They’re all about just a little bit.
education. once you finish, you have to go to
college so you can move back to Kurdistan. I Mark: What about when you are reading in
want to move back to Kurdistan. English? Do you ever use your Kurdish?

Mark: You do? Mertal: Yeah, if there’s, like, a similar word.

Yeah, it sounds just like Kurdish, stuff like that.
Mertal: I don’t want to stay in America.
Mark: So, you make comparisons?
Mertal: Yeah.
“Teachers can help teens recognize
the great linguistic resources they Mertal’s comments show that he views LOTEs to
be used only if necessary. Instead of thinking through
6 have.” texts with Bahdini individually and with peers, he only
turns to these strategies in school as a supportive crutch In school, Mark observed Rachel browsing
if needed. His life goals to communicate with more Spanish-­language websites about the Vietnam War
people through multiple languages and his desire to live for an English language arts assignment, as well as
in Kurdistan require ongoing development of his trans- taking notes in Spanish from these electronic sources.
languaging practices. Yet, school remains a place where She wants to use Spanish more in school but doesn’t
English is the only legitimate means for participation. feel that her desire is validated:
Mark: Do you want to speak Spanish in school?
Rachel: “Just so I Don’t Forget”
Rachel fears losing her first language. In her first year Rachel: Yeah.
in the United States after moving from El Salvador, Mark: How?
she lived in Long Island and attended a newcomer
Rachel: Like, normally, at home and stuff.
program full of Spanish-­speaking peers and teachers
from Central America and the Dominican Republic. Mark: You want to do that in school?
In her first year in West Middle, however, she receives
Rachel: Yeah.
all instruction in English and rarely uses Spanish so-
cially or academically. Rachel “loves languages” and Mark: What do you mean?
reads Harry Potter in English and Spanish. She views Rachel: I don’t know how to say it in Spanish.
herself as bilingual and uses Spanish with her mom Like, I could practice speaking it in class.
and friends and English with her stepfather. She is
also reading manga to learn Japanese. Mark: Would you want to use Spanish in Ms.
In school, Rachel wants to use Spanish more but Brown’s class?
does so infrequently. Classroom observations showed Rachel: Yeah, but some people might be a little
that her teachers do not encourage her to use Spanish, uncomfortable.
and according to Rachel, few of her peers “speak good
Spanish.” Even though she cannot regularly use Spanish Mark: Why?
in school, she uses it strategically to make sense of Rachel: Because they don’t know what I’m—
schoolwork and to deepen her Spanish-­language knowl- what I’m saying.
edge. Mark asked her more about how she does so:
Mark: Because your Spanish is really good?
Mark: Do you ever write in Spanish?
Rachel: Yeah, like other people don’t know a lot
Rachel: Yeah. of Spanish. Most of the people, just three of the

Translanguaging Practices and Perspectives of Four Multilingual Teens

Mark: For what? people really, know Spanish. The other ones
are, like, not good.
Rachel: Just so I don’t forget.
Rachel articulates that the classroom does not al-
Mark: Really? That’s cool. Do you keep a
low for much Spanish conversation, and this lack of a
Spanish-­speaking community makes her hesitant to
Rachel: I take some notes. I’m trying to translate use the language. Still, she translanguages in school
things, but it’s so hard. Like, my mom tells me by reading Spanish-­language texts independently, re-
to translate things. It’s hard. searching content in Spanish, and conversing with
classmates. She views herself as a competent bilin-
Mark: What kinds of stuff does she have you
gual and values her Spanish–English translanguag-
ing abilities, but she fears that she will lose her
Rachel: Like, letters, Spanish-­language abilities in her current classroom
Mark: The mail? context.

Rachel: Yeah.
Implications for Schools
Here, Rachel shares that she practices Spanish while and Classrooms
reading independently and serving as her family’s lan- To summarize, all four students productively trans-
guage broker. language and do so despite the tensions between 7

their language practices and their perspectives on school norms can promote translanguaging further.
the values associated with LOTEs. These practices For instance, Mah-­nin uses Burmese constantly in
were productive in supporting students’ academic the after-­school program with Burmese friends, but
development, as in Aung’s note-­taking in Burmese, she has few classes with peers who speak her lan-
Rachel’s independent reading in Spanish, and Mah-­ guages. To promote strategic translanguaging
nin’s clarification of content in Chin. These prac- among teens, schools with diverse populations can
tices were also productive in connecting students to try placing students who share LOTEs in the same
larger goals and communities that extend beyond content classes.
the classroom, as in Mertal’s use of Bahdini and On their own volition, these teens participate in
Sorani to engage friends, family, and members of his effective translanguaging practices, including identi-
community. However, all four teens also seem to fying cross-­language connections, using bilingual dic-
have internalized dominant ideologies in the U.S. tionaries, and discussing texts in their heritage
school system, where English is of primary impor- languages. Student practices show that even when
tance, possibly confirming Martínez et al.’s (2008) LOTEs are not valued in content area classrooms,
argument: students use multiple languages in their thoughts,
writing, and speech. Although these four students
Perhaps students do not see translating as useful
represent diverse experiences, their comments reveal
or valuable in school precisely because it is not
valued in school. Perhaps they have learned that
some important commonalities in their language use
schools value only a narrow range of language (see Table 2). Teachers can begin to recognize these
uses, and not their own larger linguistic skill sets. practices as common across their multilingual stu-
(p. 425) dents, help students value these practices, and lever-
age them in instruction.
Often, English as a second language class- We suggest that classrooms that emphasize the
rooms or after-­school programs are the only com- use of LOTEs can help students feel more comfort-
munal spaces in which multilingual students feel able translanguaging across linguistic proficiency
comfor­table translanguaging in schools. Changing levels. We envision environments where students

TABLE 2  Teens’ Translanguaging and Instructional Implications

Translanguaging practices Classroom implications
x x(x) xx/xx 2015

• Note-taking in LOTEs while listening to or reading • Prompt students to discuss challenging or new content in LOTEs
English texts through think-pair-share activities.
• Repeating content in LOTEs to study for tests • Reinforce existing understandings of concepts by asking students
• Drafting writing assignments in LOTEs to summarize or paraphrase information into their LOTE.a

• Making cross-language comparisons when • Develop students’ metalinguistic awareness through activities
reading that encourage cross-linguistic comparisons, such as translation

• Using bilingual dictionaries when learning new and cognate instruction.b

vocabulary • Include multilingual texts in your classroom library and encourage
reading in LOTEs.

• Talking with friends in LOTEs to make sense of • Establish a constellation of literacy practicesc that makes
school assignments multilingualism the norm, rather than the exception, in your
• Learning new languages with family and friends classroom.
• Language brokering for family and classmates • Have students interview classmates about their language
practices, create a multilingual word wall, and share some of your
own language-learning experiences.
• Discuss with students the rewards and challenges of their
emerging bilingualism.
Note. LOTEs = languages other than English.
Borrero, N. (2011). Nurturing students’ strengths: The impact of a school-­based student interpreter program on Latino/a students’ reading
comprehension and English language development. Urban Education, 46(4), 663–688. bJiménez, R.T., García, G.E., & Pearson, P.D. (1996).
The reading strategies of bilingual Latina/o students who are successful English readers: Opportunities and obstacles. Reading Research
8 Quarterly, 31(1), 90–112. cReyes, I. (2012). Biliteracy among children and youths. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(3), 307–327.
use and learn English while also translanguaging desire to learn English while using, maintaining,
individually and collaboratively. To leverage the and strengthening their heritage languages. Mah-­
full potential of these practices, teachers must ac- nin, for example, said, “I have to speak better
tively make space for students’ translanguaging in English, [but] I like…Burmese people are here.”
the classroom. Through making cross-­ language Aung knew she needed to “speak English,” but she
connections when reading, describing new vocabu- recognized the value of speaking Burmese and
lary in LOTEs, and encouraging discussions of Karenni to “help them” (people in her commu-
content in multiple languages, teachers can help nity). Mertal said he “didn’t need [Bahdini]” in
teens recognize the great linguistic resources they school but recognized a need to deepen his under-
have and begin to leverage them for academic standing of the language if he wished to work in
success. Kurdistan. Rachel said she needed to use Spanish
To support reading comprehension, teachers “just so I don’t forget” but that doing so in school
can work alongside bilingual students to translate “is so hard.” All students wished to develop their
texts into their heritage languages (Jiménez et al., English, but they feared losing their heritage lan-
2015). To strengthen metalinguistic awareness, guages and recognized challenges in using them
teachers can facilitate students’ discussions, composi- productively in school.
tions, and revisions of multilingual texts through Thus, to support students’ translanguaging
student-­ led language exchange activities (Martin-­ practices, teachers must begin to implement trans-
Beltrán, 2014). Teachers can tap into teens’ local languaging pedagogies that encourage the develop-
knowledge of their communities by investigating ment of the full range of students’ linguistic
community literacies (Jiménez, Smith, & Teague, resources (see Table 2 for suggestions) and must
2009). For example, local multilingual newspapers make the efforts necessary to get to know their stu-
can be leveraged to help teens see the purpose of text dents (see the Take Action sidebar). After years of
and graphic features (Pacheco & Miller, 2015). In English-­only schooling, students might feel strange
social studies, discussions about what transnational using LOTEs in class. Similarly, teachers accus-
citizenry might mean in contemporary, globalized tomed to teaching only in English might feel uncer-
societies can help students view their multilingual tain when students discuss a concept in a language
abilities as useful practices for school, work, and pro- the teacher does not understand. We emphasize
ductive citizenry. These pedagogies have potential that a simple conversation with students can begin
for enhancing students’ academic and linguistic de- to reveal their linguistic practices, proficiencies,
velopment and for challenging deficit ideologies and perspectives, which in turn can lead to instruc-

Translanguaging Practices and Perspectives of Four Multilingual Teens

about LOTEs. tional shifts that responsively support them in
Each of these pedagogies also demands that achieving their lifelong goals.
educators base their instruction on students’ actual Mah-­nin, Aung, Rachel, and Mertal all show
language practices, or from the bottom up. To how they use their multilingual resources to make
make these practices visible in the classroom, meaning of their multilingual worlds. To highlight
Norton (2000) suggested that students should keep this meaning-­ making process, O. García (2009)
reflective journals about challenging linguistic used the metaphor of an all-­terrain vehicle that
­interactions in their daily lives or experiences when flexibly maneuvers in different types of terrain; in-
they switch between English and their heritage dividuals constantly adapt, adjust, and employ lin-
language. Martínez (2010) added that these
­ guistic resources to make sense of the multiple
­examples from students’ everyday interactions can communicative contexts that they encounter in
serve as entry points into discussions about how their lives. Extending this metaphor, we worry
language is used strategically within different about how this vehicle’s abilities to travel across
contexts. varied terrain will be limited to smaller spaces if
classrooms continue to emphasize English only.
We hope that the languaging experiences of these
Conclusion four teens will lead teachers and administrators to
Students’ direct experiences with language point to investigate, recognize, and leverage the rich lan-
their complex relationships with their language guage practices of multilingual teens in their
use. A shared tension across students was their schools. 9

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research (3rd

Take Action ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strat-
egies in multilingual classrooms. Canadian Journal of Applied
Linguistics, 10(2), 221–240.
1. Interview students about their language use. Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D.J. (2008). Making content
When, where, and why do they use LOTEs? comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (2nd
Give specific scenarios to elicit authentic ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
experiences. These interviews can potentially García, E.E. (2005).The policy debate and related policies
increase learners’ metacognitive awareness of ­regarding U.S. bilinguals. In Teaching and learning in
two languages: Bilingualism and schooling in the United States
(pp. 77–99). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
2. Identify community and after-school program- García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century:
ming that supports immigrants, refugees, and A global perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
cultural diasporas in your vicinity. Volunteer Gee, J.P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in dis-
and see how your students approach home- courses (2nd ed.). London, UK: Falmer.
work and interact with peers in informal Jiménez, R.T., David, S., Fagan, K., Risko, V.J., Pacheco, M.,
Pray, L., & Gonzales, M. (2015). Using translation to drive
conceptual development for students becoming literate in
3. Design multimodal, multilingual projects that English as an additional language. Research in the Teaching of
relate to your class themes, and enable teens English, 49(3), 248–271.
to share their stories, languages, and goals. Jiménez, R.T., García, G.E., & Pearson, P.D. (1996). The read-
See examples in the 18(3) issue of the ing strategies of bilingual Latina/o students who are suc-
International Journal of Bilingual Education cessful English readers: Opportunities and obstacles.
and Bilingualism. Reading Research Quarterly, 31(1), 90–112. doi:10.1598/
4. After collecting information about how students Jiménez, R.T., Smith, P., & Teague, B. (2009). Transnational and
use language, create a table that documents community literacies for teachers. Journal of Adolescent &
these practices and keep it in your classroom as Adult Literacy, 53(1), 16–26.
a reminder. Kroskrity, P.V. (2004). Language ideologies. In A. Duranti (Ed.),
A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 496 –517).
5. Research on teens’ out-of-school language use is
Malden, MA: Blackwell.
growing. Reading articles that show multilingual
Lee, J.S., & Oxelson, E. (2006). “It’s not my job”: K–12 teacher
teens’ use of technology (e.g., Stewart, 2013)— attitudes toward students’ heritage language maintenance.
in conjunction with gaining in-depth knowledge Bilingual Research Journal, 30(2), 453–477. doi:10.1080/1523
of your students—may help you develop relevant 5882.2006.10162885
assignments. Lucas, T., & Katz, A. (1994). Reframing the debate: The roles of
x x(x) xx/xx 2015

native languages in English-­only programs for language mi-

norit y students. TESOL Quarterly, 28 (3), 537–561.
Note Martin-Beltrán, M. (2014). “What do you want to say?”: How ado-
Shannon’s research was supported by a grant from the Education lescents use translanguaging to expand learning opportuni-
Research Service Projects Program of the American Educational ties. International Multilingual Research Journal, 8(3),
Research Association. 208–230. doi:10.1080/19313152.2014.914372

Martínez, R.A. (2010). “Spanglish” as literacy tool: Toward an

understanding of the potential role of Spanish-­English code-­
References switching in the development of academic literacy. Research
Antón, M., & DiCamilla, F. (1998). Socio-­cognitive functions of in the Teaching of English, 45(2), 124–149.
L1 collaborative interaction in the L2 classroom. Canadian Martínez, R.A., Hikida, M., & Durán, L. (2015). Unpacking ide-
Modern Language Review, 54(3), 314–342. doi:10.3138/ ologies of linguistic purism: How dual language teachers
cmlr.54.3.314 make sense of everyday translanguaging. International
Borrero, N. (2011). Nurturing students’ strengths: The impact of Multilingual Research Journal, 9(1), 26–42. doi:10.1080/1931
a school-­b ased student interpreter program on Latino/a 3152.2014.977712
­students’ reading comprehension and English language de- Martínez, R.A., Orellana, M.F., Pacheco, M., & Carbone,
velopment. Urban Education, 46(4), 663–688. doi:10.1177 P. (2008). Found in translation: Connecting translating
/0042085911400333 ­e xperiences to academic writing. Language Arts, 85(6),
Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. 421–431.
Canadian Modern Language Review, 57(3), 402–423. Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, eth-
doi:10.3138/cmlr.57.3.402 nicity and educational change. London, UK: Longman.
Pacheco, M.B., & Miller, M.E. (2015). Making meaning through
translanguaging in the literacy classroom. The Reading
Teacher. Advance online publication. doi:10.1002/trtr.1390
More to Explore
C O N N E C T E D C O N T E N T - B­ A S E D R E S O U R C E S
Reyes, I. (2012). Biliteracy among children and youths. Reading
Research Quarterly, 47(3), 307–327. ✓✓ Celic, C., & Seltzer, K. (2011). Translanguaging: A CUNY-
Seidman, I.E. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide NYSIEB guide for educators. New York, NY: CUNY-NYSIEB,
for researchers in education and the social sciences (3rd ed.). The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Retrieved from
Stewart, M.A. (2013). Giving voice to Valeria’s story: Support, FINAL-Translanguaging-Guide-With-Cover-1.pdf
value, and agency for immigrant adolescents. Journal of
✓✓ Rubinstein-Ávila, E. (2003). Conversing with Miguel: An
Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57(1), 42–50.
adolescent English language learner struggling with
Tse, L. (1996). Language brokering in linguistic minority com- later literacy development. Journal of Adolescent &
munities: The case of Chinese-­and Vietnamese-­A merican Adult Literacy, 47 (4), 290–301.
students. Bilingual Research Journal, 20(3/4), 485–498. doi:
✓✓ Identify your students’ LOTEs and connect
interdisciplinary themes to current events. Use BBC’s
Valdés, G. (2005). Bilingualism, heritage language learners,
Multilanguage webpage (
and SLA research: Opportunities lost or seized? Modern
languages) as a resource for families to read and
Language Journal, 89(3), 410–426. doi:10.1111/j.1540-­4781
discuss class themes at home.

Translanguaging Practices and Perspectives of Four Multilingual Teens