I’m blogging amidst the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Atlanta Georgia, 4 C’s to all you English geeks. The dogwoods are blooming across from the Georgia Aquarium, where amongst all the sea creatures, from the beluga whales to the giant pink anemone, it is the delicate leaf dragon sea horse, that is the most costly to feed.
I’ve met scholars across the nation and the world, and in second language writing circles, the concept of a translingual approach to language and writing is making waves. Bruce Horner, Paul Matsuda and Suresh Canagarajah spoke on a panel, “(Re)Defining Translingual Writing.” I’d like to share a few highlights. Assumptions of the translingual approach are that: 1) multilingualism is the norm, 2)that language is dynamic and ever changing, and 3)that language differences/misunderstandings are expected in every communication. Every time you open your mouth, people are trying to understand who you are and what you mean, and in global business situations, in particular, there is a great deal of negotiation of meaning and cooperative communication. While a structural approach to language sees language communication as transmission of meaning by reproducing that code. A functional approach to language sees language as a socially shared repertoire from which each individual draws in shaping and reshaping her own repertoire. Communication is then a negotiation of meaning and language. A translingual writing disposition focuses on the concrete labor of reading and writing in producing meaning, and assumes communication requires tolerance for variation, patience, humility, and strategies of cooperation, accomodation, and negotiation. This acknowledges the role and responsiblities of writer and the readers. All writings, then, are in need of translations or interpretations.
So the translingual writing is not a new kind of writing, not a thing, or an act. Rather it is an acknowledgement of how langauge and writing is and has always been.
Suresh says both monolingual native English speaking students and multilingual students are competent in negotiated literacy and everyone brings these practices from contact zones outside. In the classroom, teachers can acknowledge these realities that go on in real life and can set up conditions in the classroom that more closely reflect the realities that we and our students live in every day, shifting registers and voices, languages and dialects, integrating words and phrases throughout our communication.
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