A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching?

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  • Translanguaging in the BilingualClassroom: A Pedagogy for Learningand Teaching?ANGELA CREESEUniversity of BirminghamSchool of EducationMOSAIC Centre for Research on MultilingualismEdgbastonBirmingham B15 2TTUnited KingdomEmail: a.creese@bham.ac.uk

    ADRIAN BLACKLEDGEUniversity of BirminghamSchool of EducationMOSAIC Centre for Research on MultilingualismEdgbastonBirmingham B15 2TTUnited KingdomEmail: a.j.blackledge@bham.ac.uk

    This article reports on research that questions commonsense understandings of a bilingualpedagogy predicated on what Cummins (2005, 2008) refers to as the two solitudes assump-tion (2008, p. 65). It sets out to describe a flexible bilingual approach to language teachingand learning in Chinese and Gujarati community language schools in the United Kingdom. Weargue for a release from monolingual instructional approaches and advocate teaching bilin-gual children by means of bilingual instructional strategies, in which two or more languagesare used alongside each other. In developing this argument, the article takes a language ecol-ogy perspective and seeks to describe the interdependence of skills and knowledge acrosslanguages.

    CUMMINS (2008) DEFINED BILINGUAL EDU-cation as the use of two (or more) languages ofinstruction at some point in a students schoolcareer (p. xii). Garca, Skutnabb-Kangas, andTorres-Guzman (2006) referred to multilingualschools that exert educational effort that takesinto account and builds further on the diversityof languages and literacy practices that childrenand youth bring to school (p. 14). This means go-ing beyond acceptance or tolerance of childrenslanguages, to cultivation of languages throughtheir use for teaching and learning. Cummins re-ferred to research (August & Shanahan, 2006;Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, & Christian,2006) that demonstrates that considerable confi-dence can be placed in the positive outcomes ofbilingual education.

    Bilingual classroom contexts are hugely varied,with multiple models and structures existing in

    The Modern Language Journal, 94, i, (2010)0026-7902/10/103115 $1.50/0C2010 The Modern Language Journal

    different education systems across the world. Inthis article, we describe one particular model com-mon in many nations with linguistic and culturaldiversity, that of complementary schools, also knownas heritage language schools, supplementary schools,and community language schools.1 These schoolsare invariably established by community mem-bers and focus on language, culture, and heritageteaching. In the United Kingdom they are vol-untarily run and outside the state sector of con-trol. Since 2002, we have researched complemen-tary schools and have investigated the languagepractices of their participants in Bengali, Chi-nese, Gujarati, and Turkish schools in Birming-ham, Manchester, Leicester, and London, respec-tively (Creese, Barac, et al., 2008). The projectshave aimed to explore the social, cultural, andlinguistic significance of complementary schoolsboth within their communities and in wider soci-ety and to investigate how linguistic practices ofstudents and teachers in complementary schoolsare used to negotiate their multilingual and mul-ticultural identities.

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    Complementary schools are institutions thatendorse multilingualism as a usual and normativeresource for identity performance (Creese, Bhatt,Bhojani, & Martin, 2006; Martin, Bhatt, Bhojani,& Creese, 2006) and strive to influence identityand cultural socializations, extending the bilin-gualism of their students (Creese, Bhatt, Bhojani,& Martin, 2008). Complementary schools par-ticular concern with community values and thenature of affiliation to and expertise in the com-munity language requires a pedagogy that re-sponds to young people and teachers who haveexperience of the diaspora in particular and dis-tinct ways (Anderson, 2008; Cummins, 2005). Inthe context of the classroom it is usually the casethat the young peoples bilingualism is Englishdominant, whereas their teachers are often com-munity language dominant. This article sets outto describe how teachers and students have devel-oped and co-constructed pedagogic practices forparticipants in complementary schooling. We usea language ecology perspective to describe the ide-ological, interrelational, and interactional affor-dances of these linguistically diverse classrooms(Creese & Martin, 2003; van Lier, 2008).


    An ecological approach considers the alreadyestablished with the new. van Liers (2008) eco-logical approach described the need to considerthe development of new languages alongside thedevelopment of existing languages. He stressedthe importance of the interrelationship betweenteacher and learners in making this connectionsalient. According to van Lier, the teacher en-gages the learner in pedagogic actions intendedto develop a wide panoramic view of self (2008,p. 54). From this teacherlearner engagement,new identity positions associated with languagelearning processes can emerge, with the teachershowing the learner the possibilities of these.Creese and Martin (2003, 2008) described class-rooms as ecological microsystems. They arguedfor the importance of exploring ecological minu-tiae of interactional practices in classrooms, link-ing these to the ideologies that pervade languagechoice and language policy. A similar point ismade by Jaffe (2007), who described a need formicroecologies (p. 225) of linguistic, social, po-litical, and pedagogical practice.

    The study of language ecology is the study ofdiversity within specific sociopolitical settings inwhich the processes of language use create, re-flect, and challenge particular hierarchies andhegemonies, however transient these might be.

    An ecological perspective on multilingualism isessentially about opening up ideological and im-plementational space in the environment for asmany languages as possible (Hornberger, 2002,p. 30). At its heart is the dialectic between thelocal interactional and the social ideological. Anecological perspective also warns against too eas-ily reaching comprehensive, tidy findings. Kram-sch (2002) suggested that we use an ecologicalframework to voice the contradictions, the un-predictabilities, and paradoxes that underlie eventhe most respectable research in language devel-opment (p. 8; see also Kramsch & Steffensen,2008).

    The language ecology metaphor offers a wayof studying the interactional order to explorehow social ideologies, particularly in relation tomultilingualism, are created and implemented.The purpose of this article is to consider howthe multilingual orientation of complementaryschools frames bilingual pedagogy as an ideol-ogy and how teachers and students practise itlocally and interactionally. In the larger macro-ideological order, which is increasingly hostile tomultilingualism and multiculturalism through itsinsistence on monolingualism in society, and inthe United Kingdom in particular (Blackledge,2005; Rassool, 2008), complementary schools po-tentially provide an alternative (Mirza & Reay,2000), safe (Garca, 2005; Martin, Creese, Bhatt,& Bhojani, 2004), and multilingual (Hornberger,2005) space for institutional bilingualism. We con-sider the possibilities they present to challenge themonolingual macro-order.


    Bilingual education has traditionally arguedthat languages should be kept separate in thelearning and teaching of languages. We see thisexplained in an early text on language distribu-tion in bilingual schooling (Jacobson & Faltis,1990):

    Bilingual educators have usually insisted on the sep-aration of the two languages, one of which is En-glish and the other, the childs vernacular. By strictlyseparating the languages, the teacher avoids, it is ar-gued, cross-contamination, thus making it easier forthe child to acquire a new linguistic system as he/sheinternalizes a given lesson. . . . It was felt that the inap-propriateness of the concurrent use was so self-evidentthat no research had to be conducted to prove thisfact. (p. 4)

    Keeping the languages separate, it is argued, helpsthe child. This discussion is brought up to date

  • Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge 105

    in the rationale behind the two-way bilingual im-mersion programs of the United States, which aredescribed as periods of instruction during whichonly one language is used (that is, there is no trans-lation or language mixing) (Lindholm-Leary,2006, p. 89). According to Cummins (2005), anexplanation for this separateness is the continu-ing prevalence of monolingual instructional ap-proaches in our schools. He described the as-sumptions behind these approaches as follows:

    1. Instruction should be carried out exclusivelyin the target language without recourse to thestudents L1 [first language].

    2. Translation between L1 and L2 [second lan-guage] has no place in the teaching of languageor literacy. Encouragement of translation in L2teaching is viewed as a reversion to the discred-ited grammar/translation method . . . or concur-rent translation method.

    3. Within L2 immersion and bilingual/duallanguage programs, the two languages should bekept rigidly separate: They constitute two soli-tudes. (p. 588)

    The two solitudes to which Cummins referredhere are similarly captured by others in the re-search literature. Heller (1999) coined the termparallel monolingualism, in which each varietymust conform to certain prescriptive norms (p.271). Heller argued that students learn to be-come bilingual in particular ways (and thereforenot others) and that these constructions of bilin-gualism advantage particular groups of students.Baker (2003), building on Fishman (1967), de-scribed bilingualism with diglossia in which eachlanguage is used for distinct and separate socialfunctions; Swain (1983) used the phrase bilin-gualism through monolingualism (p. 4); Creeseand Blackledge (2008) used the term separatebilingualism to describe language learning class-room contexts in complementary schools whereteachers insist on the use of the target lan-guage only. Each term describes the boundariesput up around languages and represents a viewof the multilingual/bilingual student/teacher astwo monolinguals in one body (Gravelle, 1996,p. 11).

    There are emotional implications for insistenceon separate bilingualism in educational contexts.In 1981, Zentella recorded one of the teachersin her study saying, When they dont understandsomething in one language, theyll go to the other,which is easier for them . . . and like, then some-times I have to be bouncing from one language tothe other, which is wrong (Puerto Rican teacherparticipant).

    The teacher in the Zentella (1981) study in-dicated her moral disapproval of mixing lan-guages in the classroom. Shin (2005), in her study,described attitudes toward codeswitching as neg-ative, noting that bilinguals themselves may feelembarrassed about their code switching and at-tribute it to careless language habits (p. 18).Setati, Adler, Reed, and Bapoo (2002) made ref-erence to the dilemma-filled (p. 147, as citedin Martin, 2005, p. 90) nature of codeswitchingin their study of South African classrooms. Mar-tin (2005), describing codeswitching in Malaysia,shows how:

    the use of a local language alongside the officiallanguage of the lesson is a well-known phenomenonand yet, for a variety of reasons, it is often lambasted asbad practice, blamed on teachers lack of English-language competence . . . or put to one side and/orswept under the carpet. (p. 88)

    These studies show that moving between lan-guages has traditionally been frowned upon ineducational settings, with teachers and studentsoften feeling guilty about its practice. Researchshows that codeswitching is rarely institutionallyendorsed or pedagogically underpinned. Rather,when it is used, it becomes a pragmatic responseto the local classroom context. Lin (2005) de-scribed student and teacher codeswitching prac-tices as local, pragmatic, coping tactics andresponses to the socioeconomic dominance of En-glish in Hong Kong, where many students from so-cioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds withlimited access to English resources struggled to ac-quire an English-medium education for its socioe-conomic value (p. 46; see also Lin, 1996). Martin(2005) spoke of codeswitching as offering class-room participants creative, pragmatic and safepractices . . . between the official language of thelesson and a language which the classroom par-ticipants have a greater access to (p. 89). Arthurand Martin (2006) argued that codeswitching al-lows participants to better accomplish the lessonand is a pragmatic response used to annotate textsand provide greater access.


    The educational issues around parallel mono-lingualism have led practitioners and researchersto question the stricture of separate bilingualism.Cummins (2005) challenged the squandering ofbilingual resources in mainstream contexts. Heargued for a need to articulate bilingual instruc-tional strategies that teach explicitly for two-way

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    cross-language transfer. Anderson (2008) has re-cently called for flexible approaches to pedagogyto respond to bilingual contexts that do not fiteasily into existing paradigms. Lin and Martin(2005) have argued for more multilingual peda-gogic and curriculum research. The research doc-umented in Lin and Martin (2005) and Arthurand Martin (2006) described the pedagogic po-tentials behind codeswitching. These includeincreasing the inclusion, participation, and un-derstandings of pupils in the learning processes;developing less formal relationships between par-ticipants; conveying ideas more easily; and accom-plishing lessons. They spoke of the pedagogicvalidity of codeswitching (Arthur & Martin, 2006,p. 197) and considered ways in which the researchmight contribute to a teachable pedagogic re-source.

    Important avenues of research have begun toquestion the validity of boundaries around lan-guages. Garca (2007) showed in her work in NewYork schools that languages are not hermeticallysealed units. Garca prefers the term translan-guaging (p. xii) to codeswitching to describe theusual and normal practice of bilingualism with-out diglossic functional separation in New Yorkclassrooms (p. xiii). Makoni and Mashiri (2007)suggested that rather than developing languagepolicies that attempt at hermetically sealing lan-guages, we should be describing the use of vernac-ulars that leak into one another to understand thesocial realities of their users. As Lemke (2002) ar-gued:

    It is not at all obvious that if they were not politicallyprevented from doing so, languages would not mixand dissolve into one another, but we understand al-most nothing of such processes. . . . Could it be that allour current pedagogical methods in fact make mul-tilingual development more difficult than it need be,simply because we bow to dominant political and ide-ological pressures to keep lang...


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