Remaking Multilingualism: A Tribute to Ofelia García

This month we published Remaking Multilingualism edited by Bahar Otcu-Grillman and Maryam Borjian – a book honouring the research and influence of Ofelia García. In this post the editors highlight some of the tributes made by contributors to the volume.

Multilingualism, bilingual education and how it is implemented in schools have often been controversial topics debated by politicians, academics, and educators in the United States and throughout the world. Among many scholars in the field, Professor Emerita Ofelia García has been a leader for 40 years, advocating for bilingualism, multilingualism and true bilingual education, not only for language minorities, but for all, and not only locally, but globally. An essential part of ‘dynamic bilingualism’ introduced by García, translanguaging stands out as a promising approach for the education of emergent bilinguals and constitutes people’s complex language practices in multilingual speech communities.

Remaking Multilingualism: A Translanguaging Approach is a tribute volume celebrating Ofelia García and her lifetime commitment to multilingualism and bilingual education within translanguaging perspectives via the eyes of her colleagues, former students, and friends. Through its collective chapters, the volume covers translanguaging in both its senses, as a discursive practice and as a pedagogical approach. It takes the reader beyond named languages and named nation-states to place the emphasis on us, human beings, the speakers of different languages and the residents of different parts of the world.

Dedicated to Ofelia García for her lifetime commitment to the cause of bilingual education, multilingualism and educational linguistics, the volume includes many tribute statements. Here are some excerpts from the book:

“Ofelia’s name is practically synonymous with translanguaging, that run-away concept that has captured the imagination of so many in the field of bilingual education. This is as it should be – a reflection of both Ofelia’s long and deep scholarship in bilingual education policy and practice and the creativity and imagination she brings to it.”
Nancy Hornberger

“Ofelia continues to challenge me on how to go beyond dichotomies such as research/practice, descriptive/political, or pedagogies/policies, and make more holistic contributions to our field.”
Suresh Canagarajah

“Ofelia García remains steadfast in her lifelong commitment to bilingual education. She refers to the systemic inequalities brought about by the hegemony of English, ‘whiteness’ and colonialism. From her early work she has been, and remains, inspirational in her ability to narrow the gap between theory and practice, engage with practitioners to improve the educational outcomes of students and take on powerful institutions which endorse harmful monolingual ideologies and exclude the everyday practices of bilingual learners. She is fearless in her ability to face resistance, speaking truth to power whenever and wherever she is able. Hers is a recognition that practice must lead theory, and not the other way round. Translanguaging is not merely a description of interactional contact, but an ideological orientation to communication and difference. In her warm, inclusive and engaging manner Ofelia García has reshaped the landscape of bilingual education, second language teaching and learning and education pedagogies more widely. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”
Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge

“Ofelia García’s enormous gifts of intellectuality, brilliance of thought coupled with her profound love for humanity are not the only characteristics of her academic endeavors that have awed and inspired many over the past several decades. Her immeasurable humility, warmth of character, abundant love and her sheltering personality have made her a true mentor, colleague and friend to many.”
Maryam Borjian

“Ofelia’s advocacy is above everything else. Her lifetime work on bilingual education and multilingualism, initially with Professor Fishman, and her translanguaging approach later, have provided the advocacy for those who speak minority languages and the guidance for educators and policymakers who regulate the minorities’ education. I am thankful to her for everything she did for me and others, for every idea she nurtured and pursued and for everyone she inspired to change the world.”
Bahar Otcu-Grillman

“This chapter foregrounds the perspectives of bilingual Latinx adolescent youth in reimagining school and classroom-level language allocation policy in ways that center the language practices and lived realities of youth. At the core, this approach is grounded in Dr. Ofelia García’s conception of translanguaging and dynamic bilingualism (2009), and our shared belief that children’s and communities’ language practices must be at the center of pedagogical and policy decisions. Using García’s theory of dynamic bilingualism, I outline four lessons from youth based on their reported language use and perspectives on bilingualism and translanguaging, then consider the implications of these lessons for language allocation policy, suggesting an approach to language policy that is grounded in both dynamic bilingualism and youth’s lived realities. Just as Dr. García conceived of translanguaging by studying the language practices of communities, the best way to serve multilingual youth is by listening to youth themselves, and letting their perspectives, experiences and language practices guide the creation of more equitable language policy.”
Sarah Hesson

“Both authors are former students of Ofelia Garcia and were also part of the CUNY-NYSIEB team.  Our approach to working with teachers of emergent bilinguals was rooted in the translanguaging pedagogy that evolved from Ofelia Garcia’s work. Over the years, Ofelia fostered spaces for collaboration that engaged educators in reimagining their schools and classrooms. Our work and the work of the teachers that we feature in this chapter are examples of how she inspired educators to open a space in which they could carefully analyze how learning was attuned to emergent bilinguals’ identities and socio-emotional development.”
Ivana Espinet and Karen Zaino

“If the term mentor entails being a counsellor with wisdom and experience, a generous and inspirational collaborator, and a loyal and empathetic friend, then Ofelia García is mentor par excellence.”
Jo Anne Kleifgen

For more information about this book, please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners by Jim Cummins.

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