Posted in CCCC 2013, Uncategorized

My first 4Cs, my first post: Translingual pedagogy

With a large international-student population and a suburban community increasingly diversifying due to urban gentrification, I teach in an incredibly linguistically diverse two-year college. My precollege writing courses, for example, have students from China, South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan  Vietnam, Mexico — and I’ve probably forgotten others! This diversity is a privilege and challenge. Therefore, a key objective for me at this conference is to better understand how to teach in a “multilingual” setting in ways that value non-English languages and cultures, resist linguistic hegemony, while also preparing students to navigate future “academic” writing situations. On the one hand, I want students to maintain their linguistic identities. Yet as Adrienne Rich writes, “This is the oppressor’s tongue / yet I must speak to you.”

Workshop: Crossing BW/ESL/FYW Divides: Exploring Translingual Writing and Programs

The first workshop I attended (but, unfortunately, didn’t catch all of) already troubles my language above. Instead of multilingual pedagogy, this workshop defined and gave examples for translingual pedagogy.  So I’d like to lay out just a few of the insights from this workshop, though, unfortunately, I had to miss the last part of it.

Defining/Theorizing Transcultural Pedagogy

Juan Guerra presented a very enlightening tripartite way of considering dominant ideologies of literacy and approaches to language difference. According to Guerra, the traditional paradigm, monolingual pedagogy (“life in the either/or”), encourages assimilation, code segregation, and is a colonizing project. Multilingual pedagogies give a “tolerant conception of literacy” (“life in the either/or”), but are still neo-colonial projects that encourage “code switching” and “acculturation,” but maintain linguistic power relations. Translingual pedagogies (“life in the neither/nor), on the other hand, value the hybrid, “code meshing,” and is a decolonizing project.

As Debarata Dutta suggested in her presentation, the binaries that still operate in multicultural pedagogy, such as “native” and “non-native” speaker, still associate the native speaker with being “American” and dominant. Dutta wants to overturn the common belief that native speakers teach non-native speakers English and non-native speakers teach native speakers “culture.”

Curriculum and Assessment:

Asao Inoue presented on assessment practices for translingual pedagogy.  His key question was: How do you create conditions for translingual pedagogies to be effective?

Borrowing from Ira Shor and Peter Elbow, Inoue laid out grading contracts as an assessment method that values labor rather than product. As Inoue suggested, “When grades used to judge writing, hegemonic English is always used for that judgement.” Therefore, the absence of grades on writing and focus on labor deconstructs hegemonic approaches. It encourages error and failure are natural part of learning.

Dylan Dryer and Paige Mitchell offered an assignment sequence on “language and the self” and discussed how, in portfolio assessment, translingual writers are often critiqued in wide-ranging, inconsistent ways, whereas monolingual students are more uniformly praised.


I had to duck out of the workshop early, so I missed some of the other conversations about translingualism. Most of these speakers referenced first-year composition courses for translingual pedagogy. So I’m left with the questions about translingual pedagogy in basic writing courses, which seem even more focused on “fixing” the non-linguistically dominant student. 

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