What Is Translanguaging and Why Is It Important?

5th Grade students in a Dual Language program are relating their knowledge from Spanish to English. Students have a poem in Spanish and have to translate it using the words in English.

What is Translanguaging?

Translanguaging is drawing on multiple languages to enhance knowledge or perform.

In a Dual Language classroom, this may look like students telling a story in English and replacing a word for Spanish instead of English.

It is important to note that translation in itself is not translanguaging, but really focusing on the similarities and differences of the languages is.

Why Translanguaging is Important

I’m not really sure when Spanglish became known as a negative. My guess is that it is due to many Americans thinking everyone should speak English. (While I know this is not true for everyone, it is for many)

Translanguaging is important, because it allows for students to use their language to help them. So, I teach Dual Language and I teach on the English side while my partner teaches on the Spanish side. The languages should not be 100% isolated.

In my class, students learn the information in English. However, the discussion should be available in their native language. This allows students to really focus on mastering the content.

Of course, we want students to develop in their language skills as well. Did you know improving language/literacy in one’s native language helps them in their second language?

Translanguaging also involves connecting both languages. You may point out how in English we say the adjective, then noun while vice versa in Spanish. BUILD THOSE LITERACY SKILLS!

Reasons You May Be Intimidated

  • You don’t understand what students are saying
  • Have faith in your students. Build trust.
  • Isn’t it code switching?
  • Why is this a negative? Students should be encouraged to draw on their repertoire.
  • Only opportunity for students to practice language
  • Provide chances for students to draw on their knowledge in their native language, but also have certain times where you expect English (or whatever language)
  • Increased opportunity for bullying
  • Most of the time, these students that are bullying would be doing so even in a language understood by the teacher. Relationships first, everything else second.

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