Translanguaging and Plurilingual Pedagogy: Critical Literacy in Multilingual Language Classrooms

by John Wayne dela Cruz

Concordia University’s Department of Education welcomed Dr. Sunny Man Chu Lau as the second presenter in our Plurilingual Lab Speaker Series on November 15, 2018. The talk entitled Affordances of plurilingual pedagogy for critical literacy engagement in second language classrooms gathered a roomful attendance by department professors and students in the Applied Linguistics (MA, PhD) and TESL (BEd) programs, friends and family. With a review of her three most recent research studies, Dr. Lau summarized the affordances that plurilingual instruction offer in engaging second language students towards critical literacy.

Though languages do not exist in a vacuum, traditional monolingual and grammar-oriented pedagogy persists in second language classrooms. Language programs and curricula often strictly enforce a target-language-only policy in the hopes of achieving native-like grammatical competence, much to the disservice of their students. To that end, Dr. Lau illustrated how theoretical and empirical evidence invites us to reflect about the following:

  • Texts—by virtue of the language in which they are written—are positioned and positioning; they serve to express the writers’ perspectives and to situate the readers within this point of view.
  • Language learners and speakers are then subjected to the process of interpellation—they are constantly called to confront, accept, or refute messages with which they are bombarded.
  • In Second Language Acquisition, we should always remind to ask ourselves, on behalf of students, why they’re learning something and what they can do with language; in other words, since languages are intertwined with lived experiences, language gains in the classroom should be as important as real life social practice.

In plurilingual pedagogy, language is learned and used in meaningful ways. Language students can then be social agents inside and outside of the classroom, while the teachers can guide students, who become co-researchers in such social explorations.

This process shifts the notion to position students as knowledge experts, which has been shown to allow enhanced biliteracy learning in bilingual classrooms. Through theme-based approaches that contextualize language learning within the real world, peer translanguaging—where students are allowed to speak to each other and the teacher in a language other than the target—have been demonstrated to lead to three main areas:

1) reflection on abstract concepts such as othering or self-distancing and personal racial biases through their words and actions;

2) awareness of hidden concerns and perceptions about the target language, their peers, and their larger social circles;

3) intercultural understanding in the classroom, particularly in classrooms in multilingual and multicultural settings like Canada.

Plurilingual Lab’s members thank Dr. Lau for giving this talk. To our growing readers and followers, we hope to see you in our third talk in the Plurilingual Lab Speaker Series by Dr. Dianne Querrien on November 29th.

Contributions of Multilingualism and Bilingual Education to Applied Linguistics Research

by John Wayne dela Cruz

Plurilingual Lab and Concordia University’s Department of Education hosted Dr. Michal B. Paradowski’s talk on Multilingualism and Bilingual Education last October 25. The free event gathered a roomful attendance by department professors and students in the Applied Linguistics (MA, PhD) and the TESL (BEd) programs, friends and family. Using a survey of past and current research in applied linguistics and second language acquisition, Dr. Paradowski focused on elucidating the truths about some of the popular myths surrounding bi and multilinguals.

While much research debunking these myths have been around for many years, certain myths still persist, especially in language education. Some of the main take-aways from the talk include:

  • MYTH 1: Multilingual acquisition must start from childhood/bilingualism in children means true adult bilingualism.

TRUTH: Later age onset is not an excluding factor; 1 in 4 adult bilinguals retain productive proficiency in only one of their languages.

  • MYTH 2: Bilingualism means equal native-like command on both languages.

TRUTH: Functional plurilingualism – unbalanced proficiency between languages is normal and expected, and is highly context dependent.

  • MYTH 3: Childhood bilingualism is detrimental to linguistic/cognitive development and performance.

TRUTH: Bi/multilinguals outperform monolinguals in a number of cognitive and non-linguistic tasks. Although it is true that bi/multilingual children can be a bit behind in certain lab-based linguistic tasks (by the milliseconds!), this lag is not noticeable in daily production, they eventually catch up to and even acquire larger linguistic repertoires than monolinguals.

  • MYTH 4: Childhood bilingualism can lead to language deficit impairment.

TRUTH: As previously stated, this is false. Further, on the topic of disorders, bi/multilingualism have been strongly correlated to delays in dementia onset by 4-4.5 years, and to lower risks of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Plurilingual Lab’s members thank Dr. Padowski for coming and giving this talk.

To our followers, we hope to see you in our next event!

Plurilingual Lab at the Second Language Research Forum

Dr. Angelica Galante will deliver a talk at the Second Language Research Forum (SLRF) titled Cognitive and emotional engagement through translanguaging: A quasi-experimental study investigating L2 vocabulary development among multilingual students in Canada on October 27 (Saturday).

This year, SLRF is being held at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), in Montreal from October 26 – October 28.

More information about this and other presentations from faculty and graduate students from Concordia can be found on the SLRF website.

Decolonizing and Indigenizing Applied Linguistics

One of Concordia University’ future directions is to decolonize and indigenize academia. This initiative comes in response to calls for action suggested by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015).

Members of our lab have been attending workshops with Dr. Donna Goodleaf, a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka nation, in the city of Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal.  Among many suggestions, Dr. Goodleaf urged us to include Indigenous knowledges in our curriculum, which can be easily done by revisiting our course reading lists.

In collaboration with many colleagues, we started to compile a number of scholarly articles, books, and chapters written by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people conducting research on Indigenous languages/cultures/pedagogy. This list is available for download here. If you’d like to help us add more sources, send them in APA format to plurilinguallab@gmail.com or enter them in the comments below.

We count on you to help us decolonize Applied Linguistics!

Reference:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Truth and reconciliation commission of Canada: Calls to action. Retrieved from http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

Welcome to Plurilingual Lab!

This is a website aimed at disseminating knowledge from research conducted in our Lab.

We are based at Concordia University’s Faculty of Education, in the Applied Linguistics program. Our focus is on language pedagogy using a plurilingual approach to teach and learn languages. We are interested in valuing people’s linguistic and cultural repertoires while promoting new language and cultural learning. Whether it is French, English, German, Ojibwe, or Arabic, our focus is to help people learn the target language while validating individual and societal linguistic and cultural diversity.

We are lucky to be based in Montreal, a vibrant multilingual and multicultural city which offers several opportunities to do our research. Our interest goes beyond to include other Canadian provinces and other countries.

While we’re setting up our Lab, we will keep you posted of our research agenda and developments.

Gracias! À bientôt! Stay tuned!