Relanguaging Language

This month we published Relanguaging Language from a South African Township School by Lara-Stephanie Krause. In this post the author explains the term ‘relanguaging’.

This book documents a thought experiment. It emerged from a long-term linguistic ethnography with a focus on English classrooms at a primary school in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, South Africa. The thought experiment results in an attempt at a new conceptualisation of language classrooms – and, by extension, of language practices more generally. My methodological approach is unconventional and risky. Being at the school and engaging with the situated linguistic data in detail gave me the sense of overlooking something when applying existing theories of classroom language practices (like code-switching or translanguaging) to the data. This researcher’s intuition pushed me to reconsider existing analytical lenses. My hypothesis became that the phenomenon I observed could indeed not be described via the repertoire of existing theories. I pursue this hypothesis throughout the book and it drives me to develop a fresh analytical lens at the intersection of linguistics, applied linguistics and sociolinguistics. Relanguaging is what becomes visible once this lens is consistently applied.

While translanguaging focusses on flexible and fluid languaging practices, relanguaging is a relational phenomenon. It does not focus either on fluid languaging practices or on institutionally enforced, fixed named languages (nomolanguages). Rather, relanguaging focusses precisely on what is going on in the space that opens up between languaging and nomolanguages. In this particular study, this space is the Khayelitshan English classroom, which I see as constituted by the relationality between fluid, flexible classroom languaging practices and enactments of Standard English. Here, relanguaging is a linguistic sorting practice that is enacted by teachers (and sometimes learners) and that works in two directions:

  • Linguistic fluidity and heterogeneity (classroom languaging) gets sorted out to arrive at a homogenised classroom repertoire (Standard English)
  • Standard English gets reassembled with other linguistic resources into a heterogeneous classroom repertoire (classroom languaging)

Relanguaging therefore conceptualises language teaching not as a progression from a fixed L1 to a fixed L2 but as a circular sorting process constantly sorting out and bringing together again fluid, heterogeneous classroom languaging and Standard English.

Another notable difference between translanguaging and relanguaging is that the latter can make linguistic sorting practices visible. In translanguaging research, the idea of sorting also exists: People are said to sort through their individual repertoires made up of heterogeneous resources (rather than out of separate languages), choosing to actualize the resources most suitable for the interaction at hand. However, the sorting process itself is inaccessible to (socio)linguistic analysis. It remains ‘hidden’ in each individual’s head. By spatializing languaging – relying on the concept of spatial rather individual repertoires – relanguaging brings this sorting practice into the open and makes it accessible to (socio)linguistic analysis.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society edited by Albert Weideman, John Read and Theo du Plessis.

Translanguaging in Higher Education

This month we are publishing Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll. In this post, Catherine describes how the book came together.

Translanguaging in Higher EducationOver the last several years the term translanguaging has gained traction in academia, particularly in the field of bilingual education. When I first encountered the term I was looking for a way to describe the bilingual classroom practices that were a taken-for-granted part of content learning at my university (the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez). It seemed to me that ‘code-switching’ just didn’t cover the complex, layered use of Spanish talk around English text, the use of diagrams labeled in English during a formal presentation in Spanish, or the common practice of using scientific keywords in English while defining them in Spanish. I became interested in understanding these practices as bilingualism, rather than dismissing them with a deficit perspective which treated them as simply strategies for coping with a lack of English skills.

Understanding the role of English as a real force in higher education globally, my colleague Kevin S. Carroll and I began to think about the ways that English in particular, and other colonial languages in general, must be inserting themselves into higher education classrooms around the world. We could imagine that some of the same translanguaging practices that we were seeing in our classrooms must be occurring in other socio-cultural contexts. We also knew that other practices may be taking place that were different from those we were seeing, and so might contribute to our understanding of translanguaging as a theory.

With this in mind, the idea for our book, Translanguaging in Higher Education: Beyond Monolingual Ideologies, was born. We envisioned it as a large cross-case analysis that would incorporate perspectives from diverse socio-cultural contexts around the world. By including chapters about South Africa, Denmark, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, India, the United Arab Emirates, and the Basque Country, we hope we have accomplished this goal.

We also sought to contribute to the current academic conversation around translanguaging, which has tended to focus on K-12 education. As we attended conferences and presented our work, we kept hearing questions about translanguaging itself. What does it mean exactly? Is it really new? Isn’t it just code-switching?

In the book, I attempt to answer the question, ‘What is translanguaging?’ And here’s my answer from the book’s introduction:

(1) Translanguaging is a language ideology that takes bilingualism as the norm.

(2) Translanguaging is a theory of bilingualism based on lived bilingual experiences. As such, it posits that bilinguals do not separate their ‘languages’ into discrete systems, but rather possess one integrated repertoire of languaging practices from which they draw as they navigate their everyday bilingual worlds.

(3) Translanguaging is a pedagogical stance that teachers and students take on that allows them to draw on all of their linguistic and semiotic resources as they teach and learn both language and content material in classrooms.

(4) Translanguaging is a set of practices that are still being researched and described. It is not limited to what is traditionally known as ‘code-switching’, but rather seeks to include any practices that draw on an individual’s linguistic and semiotic repertoires (including reading in one language and discussing the reading in another, and many other practices that will be described in this book).

(5) As such, translanguaging is transformational. It changes the world as it continually invents and reinvents languaging practices in a perpetual process of meaning-making. The acceptance of these practices – of the creative, adaptable, resourceful inventions of bilinguals – transforms not only our traditional notions of ‘languages’, but also the lives of bilinguals themselves as they remake the world through language.

If you are interested in translanguaging as a developing construct, in bilingualism and bilingual education, in multilingual higher education, in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), the internationalization of higher education, educational language policy, or languaging across diverse socio-cultural contexts in general, I think you will find this book of interest. Kevin and I accept questions, concerns, and comments here on this post or by email at the addresses below.

Catherine M. Mazak

Kevin S. Carroll

For further information about this book, please contact the authors at the addresses above or see our website

Roger Barnard on Codeswitching in University English-Medium Classes

In December we published Codeswitching in University English-Medium Classes edited by Roger Barnard and James McLellan. Here, Roger explains the main themes of the book and how the research was undertaken.

Codeswitching in University English-Medium ClassesThe central theme of this book is to consider the use of the students’ first language as well as the target language (i.e. codeswitching) in English language classrooms.

Educational methodologists and policy-makers in many countries often insist on the exclusive use of the target language, believing that this presents the best (sometimes the only) way that students will experience the language being used. On the other hand, a number of influential scholars (among them, Guy Cook, Vivian Cook, Glenn Levine, and Ernesto Macaro) have argued that denying the use of a common first language is detrimental to students’ educational, as well as linguistic, development.

The research undertaken for this book sought to uncover the codeswitching practices and beliefs of university teachers of English-medium classes in about twenty contexts across Asia. The authors of the case studies recorded and transcribed language lessons in their particular context, and calculated the amount of time spent on the students’ first language and the pedagogical functions served by this switching from English. Subsequently, they interviewed the teachers concerned to elicit their reasons for codeswitching. Each case study was commented on by a researcher in another context, often adding further examples from their own research.

It was found that the use of students’ first language was an entirely normal practice everywhere, usually for between 6 and 15% of the talking time, and that teachers provided very cogent reasons for their codeswitching practices, primarily with the needs and interests of their students at heart. These findings may well resonate with teachers in other geographical contexts and in different institutions, such as elementary and high schools.

The main implication that can be drawn from these case studies – and the valuable introductory and concluding chapters – is that it is unwise to impose a monolingual policy in language classrooms; rather, teachers should be entitled to use all the linguistic resources available to them and their students in order to negotiate for meaning and to promote language learning.

Code Choice in the Language ClassroomFor more information on this book you can take a look at our website. You might also be interested in Code Choice in the Language Classroom by Glenn Levine.

Hybridity and Global Flows: The Fusion of Language and Culture

Earlier this month we published Rani Rubdy and Lubna Alsagoff’s book The Global-Local Interface and Hybridity and we asked them to tell us a bit about how the book came together.

The Global-Local Interface and HybridityWhy you may ask, did we choose to write about hybridity? Well, in this age of global flows and social networks, with so much give and take going on between people, cultures, ideas and ideologies, we think, as do many other researchers, that it is simply inconceivable to think of languages and cultures as separate anymore. The mixing and fusing that is part of globalisation is not just of food, dress, music, art, fashion or decor, or lifestyles, but percolates every aspect of language and culture.

With the global spread of English, English is in the thick of these global flows! The hybrid mixing of languages typical of local and regional multilingual settings has created new constellations for English, as speakers creatively play with, blend, stretch and refashion their language resources in numerous fascinating ways. Our book tries to capture just this allure, richness and creativity of the varied realizations of English-based hybridity found in different parts of the world. Of particular interest to us is the way these hybrid formations open up avenues for exploring the subtle connections between language, culture and identity.

We’ve divided the book up into four sections, each focusing on specific aspects of linguistic and cultural hybridity. The chapters in the first section illustrate how hybridity can be significant in dismantling conventional, narrow views about linguistic norms and canons that define language as bounded, fixed, and separate. Whether occurring as inventive strategies in advertising and on billboards and shop signs in Tanzania, India and the Philippines, or in bilingual educational contexts involving Latinos in the US, or in the mundane conversations among colleagues in an Australian workplace, the manifestations of English-based hybridity is found to be more in tune with the view of linguistic fluidity and flow in a globalizing world.

The second section of the book focuses on hybridized discourses in the media. Here the chapters describing instances of codeswitching between English and Hindi, Punjabi, French and Korean, respectively, depict the way they are in fact reflective of a fusion between local and global, old and new, traditional and modern speaker identities, often exploited as marketing strategies. The chapters in the third section set out to examine the linguistic practices of online communities such as Facebook, Internet and YouTube users, who develop hybrid vernaculars in forging new identities and remaking social relationships. How hybrid language use becomes a means of enacting glocal hybrid identities that can be both celebratory as well as conflicting is the theme of our fourth section, exemplified by chapters dealing with adolescent girls of Japanese and White mixed parentage, by Singaporean student teachers weaving their global and local identity orientations through online discussions and even through narratives of subjective introspection of the inner space in the context of the Filipino diaspora.

Although the central theme is about hybridity, our authors are by no means presenting a “romantic” view of hybridity and offer a critical and balanced view of hybridity, acknowledging, in particular, the problematic dimensions which see corporate and market forces using hybridity to serve their own capitalist purposes. However, as we acknowledge that hybridity may not be able to fully address issues of social inequality or even notions of linguistic and cultural essentialism, we argue in our book that at its heart lies an attentiveness towards agency and voice for those who dare to break the bounds of convention!

For more information on this title and for ordering information, please visit the book’s page on our website here