Translanguaging / Code-switching / Spanglish

Professor Li Wei is a leading scientist in the field of bilingualism / multilingualism and education. He is works at the University College of London.

Interesting tweet from Professor Li Wei where he sums up educational systems in which bilingual children are forced to remain in one language: ****It’s on files

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Codeswitching is often seen as the result of DEFICIENCY: a person cannot maintain a conversation in one language, so they have to switch back and forth to make up for the lack of competency they have in both languages.

Translanguaging is seen as a person’s brain holding two (or more) languages that are integrated as opposed to completely separate entities -a special ABILITY rather than a deficiency- that allows them to fluctuate with easy and competency.


We know two important facts about bilingual / multilingual children:

  • They can stay in one of their languages if the situation calls for it (e.g., speaking to a grandmother who knows only one language).
  • Their brains deal with two/multiple languages differently than the brain of adults who learn an additional language later in

Translanguaging in a classroom is used to scaffold children’s learning. Kids are allowed to go back and forth between their languages as they learn. It is not necessary (and plain impossible) for teachers to know all languages, rather, it is necessary that the teachers respect and not prohibit, belittle, or ‘outlaw’ languages other than the main language.

1. In the first part of your paper, discuss how and why a classroom can and should make use of all the languages spoken by children instead of insisting on one language only.

2. In the second part of your paper, reflect on your own bilingualism / multilingualism: do you engage in translanguaging or in codeswitching?

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