How can non-academics engage in more equal dialogue with scholars to make translanguaging “transformative”?

In 2018, Jürgen Jaspers, a professor of sociolinguistics at Université Libre de Bruxelles, published a critical essay titled “The Transformative Limits of Translanguaging.” In this blog post, I first summarize that essay, which questions the extent to which translanguaging is a transformative educational practice in and of itself. Second, I summarize an earlier article by Jaspers, which was an empirical study he published in 2011, involving multilingual youth at a school in Flanders, Belgium. Regarding that study, I examine the findings that may have led to his theorizing about the affordances and limits of translanguaging. Finally, I discuss a third paper Jaspers published in 2019, in which he outlined how non-academics (from policymakers to school administrators to teachers to activists) can engage in more equal dialogue with translanguaging scholars to increase the socially transformative effects of translanguaging.

Jaspers, J. (2018). The transformative limits of translanguaging. Language & Communication, 58, 1-10.

Jaspers begins his essay with: “What was only known in Welsh until less than 20 years ago [i.e., translanguaging] is now a household name in international conferences, symposia and summer schools, and the central topic of highly cited publications” (p. 1). He then mentions a term used by Deborah Cameron, a feminist discourse analyst at Oxford, called discursive drift, which she defines as the process by which a term becomes more popular as the media spreads it beyond scholarly circles and among the general public. As people use that term in all kinds of different ways, it “begins to drift away from its earlier (and usually narrower) sense” (Cameron, 1995, p. 127).

Jaspers adds: “But while the media surely have a part in this process, there is little doubt that scholarly circles too can cause discursive drift” (p. 1). He identifies at least 5 meanings of translanguaging in present scholarship (p. 2):

  • All speakers’ innate instinct to draw on their entire linguistic and multilingual repertoires;
  • Bi/multilinguals’ spontaneous language use;
  • A theory of language [that questions the boundaries between named languages];
  • A theory of education [that fosters use of the whole language repertoire to learn];
  • Transformative, socially critical processes: “as new configurations of language practices and education are generated, old understandings and structures are released, thus transforming not only subjectivities, but also cognitive and social structures.” (García & Li, 2014, p. 3, as cited in Jaspers, 2017, p. 2)

Jaspers complains about the profusion of meanings: “[T]ranslanguaging can apply to an innate instinct that includes monolinguals; to the performance of fluid language use that mostly pertains to bilinguals; to a bilingual pedagogy; to a theory or approach of language; and to a process of personal and social transformation. By any standard this is a lot for one term” (p. 3). Another problem he identifies which can be even more serious, is that

translanguaging scholars have more in common with the [monolingual] authorities they criticize than it may seem… [as] authorities and translanguaging scholars are generally agreed that language is key for pupils’ success at school and for reducing social inequality—it is only the type of language they disagree over. (p. 5)

He continues: “Both parties are also convinced that a discourse of discipline is conducive to making teachers implement the preferred behaviour…. holding them morally accountable for their exclusive commitment to this, with little consideration for the other expectations (from pupils, colleagues, heads of school, parents)” (p. 6). Jaspers states that translanguaging scholars see teachers’ always partial, never total uptake of their advice as insufficient willingness to try translanguaging or lack of language awareness. However, he points out that it may be more useful to see teachers’ mixed behaviours as their common response to the demands of their job (see Jaspers, 2020, “Linguistic dilemmas and chronic ambivalence in the classroom”), a job that requires teachers to skillfully balance authority and equality; imparting knowledge and valuing students’ funds of knowledge; and the needs of individuals, groups, and the whole class. These are the “everyday problems that require practical compromises through discursive work” (p. 6).

While teachers skillfully walk this tightrope, Jaspers notes that scholars do too, as they valorize translanguaging while writing in English [balancing diversity and accessibility]. Teachers and scholars share the same discourses, and all of us occupy opposite positions at the same time, as we simultaneously reproduce and transform the status quo.

Further, he argues that translanguaging theory can cause us to be blind to findings that contradict it, such as seminal studies that show pupils can be academically successful despite experiencing many negative attitudes towards their linguistic backgrounds (e.g., Erickson, 1987; Ogbu, 1978; Rampton, 2006). Jaspers states: “This does not excuse the negative attitudes, neither does it exclude that stereotyping may contribute to school failure. But it indicates that stereotyping is not straightforwardly internalized, and that all classrooms must be approached as complex interactive settings” (p. 7). Other studies have found that translanguaging may not be experienced as liberating in societies where “discourses of ethnic conflict create unfavourable ecologies for hybrid language practices” (Charalambous et al., 2016, p. 327, as cited in Jaspers, 2020, p. 7).

Additionally, other studies find that translanguaging pedagogy leads to no better academic outcomes (Ramaut et al., 2013), or at least no outcomes that can be observed on standardized tests—suggesting that translanguaging is only one key ingredient of learning outcomes that have many other key ingredients and will take a long time to show themselves. In the above study by Ramaut and colleagues (and in one of mine), translanguaging led to students’ positive attitudes and feelings, while findings were more inconclusive with regard to language attainment levels, as these are obviously affected by other individual and environmental factors. [This does not mean, of course, that we shouldn’t TRY to harness students’ whole language repertoires to maximize their learning potential. It just means that we have to accept that our hopes may not always be met.]

Jaspers explains: “Naturally, this [lack of direct causality] does not invalidate that encouraging linguistic diversity in class, or providing supplementary language teaching, impacts on learning outcomes and language skills. But it demonstrates that such effects, even when pursued with determination, may sometimes take long to appear, if they appear at all” (p. 7). His opinion is the same when it comes to the idea that translanguaging will help students better deal with social inequality and stereotyping outside of school—this “is a contingent, rather than guaranteed result” (p. 7). And while no translanguaging scholar has guaranteed either that learning outcomes will improve or that society will become more equal, he observes that the positive tone of much translanguaging research intimates these messages: “the frequency with which the transformative potential of translanguaging is emphasized in the work… and the lack of qualifying statements and caveats, does imply a certain confidence that particular effects can be counted upon” (p. 4).

On that note, Jaspers cautions us that a translingual performance can create the culturally neutral identity that monolingual standard language once did. While in earlier times, it was monolingual, standard language practices that were framed as “universally valid and available to everyone [regardless of ethnicity] who wished to pursue their autonomy and emancipation” (p. 8), in today’s discourse,

translanguaging (viz., fluid language use) is severed from all ties to a specific (bilingual) group… in the way that this fluid language use is steadily associated with the pursuit of now widely sanctioned ‘postmodern’ values like being disruptive, critical, creative, agentive, and in tune with a globalized world… to the detriment of non-hybrid linguistic practices that, in contrast, offer a first-class ticket to a rigid, static, hopelessly outdated identity. (p. 8)

Jaspers cautions translanguaging scholars to take care of translanguaging discourse’s effect on “people who fail to live up to contingent ideas of what a sensible, socially attractive person is” (p. 8). He is not against translanguaging pedagogy, and wholeheartedly supports its social justice agenda, but wishes to make some points (pp. 8-9):

1. We must not overstep our expertise by suggesting that it will transform more than the actual language use in class. By promising too much to evidence-based policymakers, we inadvertently run the risk of making them against translanguaging when it fails to accomplish what it promised to accomplish.

2. We may discipline those teachers and students who fail to meet our expectations for understandable reasons.

3. We don’t even examine the limits to our own translanguaging and why we do not translanguage to the fullest extent (e.g., in academic writing).

4. We present our multilingual ways of being as natural and ideology-free, but in truth no language practices are. It is only a question of what is desirable when, and why. 

5. Instead of overburdening the term “translanguaging,” we can question whether education (of any kind) is the sole solution to social inequality. “Identifying and militating for other emancipatory routes (through, for instance, fostering honourable and secure low-skilled work) could liberate schools… and give them a chance to experiment more freely with linguistic diversity” (p. 9). Jaspers argues that we should advocate for all government institutions to accommodate this linguistic diversity—broadening our base of supporters, and taking the pressure off from teachers who are the easiest targets of our academic theorizing.

Where did Jaspers get some of his ideas?

Jaspers, J. (2011). Talking like a ‘zerolingual’: Ambiguous linguistic caricatures at an urban secondary school. Journal of Pragmatics43(5), 1264-1278.

By linking Jaspers’ 2018 essay to this 2011 empirical study, I hope to illustrate where his concerns might have come from. Before I get to that, I will explain a theory that Jaspers’ fellow sociolinguists, Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall, have called the relationality principle. Basically, what this principle means is that, even though every individual’s language use is unique to him/her/them—like a handprint—a fact that has been agreed upon by every linguist from Noam Chomsky (MacSwan, 2017) to Ofelia Garcia (Otheguy, Garcia, & Reid, 2015), identities are socially constructed in interaction when there is an oversimplification or exaggeration of either the similarities or the difference in language use between two people. This is done through at least 3 processes:

  1. Adequation versus distinction. This comes down to being “close enough.” E.g., Jin, a blue-collar immigrant to the U.S., doesn’t position himself as an African-American, just as someone who has common causes with other non-whites, when he styles his speech with African American English. In fact, Auer and Dirim (2003) found that in Germany, many immigrants affiliate with Turkish culture (Turks being one of the main immigrant groups) because it is a pan-immigrant culture, essentially symbolizing non-German-ness.
  2. Authentication vs denaturalization. What is authentic is not a given but discussed and negotiated, e.g., in a discussion of whether Eminem or Iggy Azalea is an authentic rapper when neither is black and Iggy Azalea is female (Balliu, 2015), or in the question of whether Anita Lerche, the Danish singer who is highly proficient in and performs in Punjabi, is an authentic Punjabi speaker (Karrebaek, Staehr, & Varis, 2015).
  3. Authorization vs delegitimation. Institutions and social structures affirm or impose your identity as a(n) _________. Let me give my own example of this. A few years ago, my friend and I did an ethnographic study in his 300-level Filipino language class at the University of Hawai’i (Mendoza & Parba, 2018). There were 16 students in the class community; how to define its most “authentic” members? By being born in the Philippines—even if the person moved to California at the age of 2 weeks and grew up there? By amount of time spent in the Philippines (including the half-white, half-Filipino guy who grew up in the Philippines and largely spoke English)? The ones in Hawai’i who maintained some proficiency in their Philippine heritage language(s)? The strongly affiliated, non-Filipino L2 speaker who attained a high intermediate proficiency, higher than many of his peers? Authenticity and legitimacy are debatable, up for grabs… and we need to be careful when our claims to authenticity invalidate those of others, whether or not that was our intent.

I now go to Jaspers’ study, but not in too much detail because the long transcripts are mostly in Dutch and you would need to be able to recognize different dialects of Dutch, as well as what immigrant Dutch sounds like when it is mimicked, to see what students are doing in their multidialectal linguistic performances (for most of us, it would just be all Dutch). However, let me summarize what I perceive to be the transferable findings.

Belgium is one of those European countries divided into regions that have different official languages, with each region being quite territorial about its language. Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, speaks Dutch. In fact, in the 19th century, Dutch used to be subordinate to French in Flanders, i.e., Dutch L1 speakers who were L2 speakers of French were discriminated against in the higher professions and in the education system… but a Flemish movement established an officially monolingual zone by the 1930s where Dutch became the dominant language, necessary for professional advancement. In recent decades, a lot of immigrants have arrived, mostly from North Africa and the Middle East.

In the classroom Jaspers observed, the official language was Dutch, and the class’ dominant group consisted of a Moroccan majority while the subordinate group had Arabic, Turkish, Berber, and white working-class Dutch students. The Moroccan majority had “good vernacular competence in Dutch” (p. 1268) and knew how to make their talk more academic or more casual depending on the situation, though they still struggled with academic language. They spoke ethnolectal varieties of Dutch, influenced by Moroccan Arabic, yet had a wide range of Dutch pragmatic competence nonetheless—in that they could identify and style a wide range of Dutch dialects and registers, which allowed them, especially the boys, to do what Jaspers called “doing ridiculous,” hijacking lessons and thwarting the teacher’s intentions through witty verbal repartees. These Moroccan-Dutch students also made fun of the ways of speaking of the classroom minority students, pointing out their non-standard Dutch, while these minoritized students could not fight back, as many of them “lacked the skill for witty repartee [in any dialect of the official classroom language] and were effectively marginalized in public classroom talk” (Jaspers, 2011, p. 1275), unable to draw on the other languages they knew that were not very useful in this setting. Finally, the Moroccan-Dutch students knew they did not speak Dutch like middle-class white people. And they did not care—to them, it was too “nerdy” and unnatural to do so. It was more that they wanted to be recognized as proficient in Dutch, which they defined as their formidable command of Dutch.

Let’s go back to the relationally principle (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005). What Jaspers’ ethnography suggests is that people do not care so much whether their language use is hybrid or monolingual, or even whether they are really speaking this or that code, as much as they care to have their language practices adequated (seen as more similar to normal than distinct from normal), authenticated (seen as genuine representations of the language practices they claim to be doing), and bestowed with authority. When translanguaging practices succeed in altering monolingual subjectivities (see Ms. Winter’s class in this post), it is because they meet these requirements; when translanguaging practices fall short of the goals (as in Ms. Thalia’s class in this post), it is because they don’t. In the absence of a wider system that validated the Moroccan-Dutch students’ language repertoires (in fact, they identified as Moroccan, not Dutch, but continually insisted that they spoke Dutch well, unlike “those people”), these students simply reproduced language hierarchies by exploiting the relationality principle. [For similar findings in the U.S., see Talmy (2008).] Jaspers concluded (p. 1273):

When Faisal and Imran are talking Illegal [i.e., stylized immigrant Dutch], they are not questioning the status of incompetent Dutch nor linguistic hierarchization per se. … By this I mean that these youngsters are not directly confronting the hegemonic framework they are part of, but their actions seem “to disrupt ease and order in social occasions, this to be done by means which do not have a directly contained consequence beyond the situation in which [the sabotage] occurs” (Goffman, 1974: 426). … [T]he pleasure of playing [i.e., simultaneously questioning the status quo and reproducing it] is “derive[d] from the interweaving of realities, not from a breach that would require deciding on one or the other” (Grahame and Jardine, 1990: 301).

We can re-state the passage this way. When students engage in ludic/playful multidialectal translanguaging, partly to make fun of themselves and of others, they are keeping the social order stable, rather than destabilizing it. Like the teachers and the academics, these students “walk that tightrope” between total linguistic conformity and total linguistic rebellion which, by young adulthood, they have realized is a collectively achieved self- and other-preserving way of going through the world. This is a phenomenon which Jaspers’ colleague, the famous sociolinguist Ben Rampton, described as reciprocal relations and feedback loops that lead more towards stability than destabilization. People fall into mutually enforcing roles, given the day-to-day business of teaching and learning (or anything else that goes on in any other social setting), and figuring out such roles in ways that work well enough for everyone involves collective interpersonal finesse and ingenuity (Rampton, 2006, p. 74).

This is a lot more cynical than the positive discourse about translanguaging, but it does have a message for understanding what goes on in classrooms and considering the advice we give to teachers—and here is where I offer my interpretation of the study. Rather than insisting on particular types of linguistic performances (I do think that all talk is translanguaging of one kind or another, and the kind of translanguaging has to suit the task, the participants, and their preferences), scholars might rather help classroom participants reflect on (1) the kinds of translanguaging they promote and what they intend to do with these; (2) the compromises class members make in interaction and whether those compromises could be more equitable; and (3) the individual/group identities, rights, and authority they legitimately need to claim through particular language practices, and how to do this without collateral damage to anyone else in the process. Again, people do not care so much whether their language use is hybrid or monolingual, or even whether they are really speaking this or that code, as much as they care to have their language practices adequated, authenticated, and bestowed with authority. If we make that our goal, over teaching standard language and even above and beyond translanguaging, we will probably be on the right track.

Where does translanguaging research go from here?

Jaspers, J. (2019). Authority and morality in advocating heteroglossia. Language, Culture and Society, 1(1), 83-105.

I now come to the last paper, on how non-academics (from policymakers to school administrators to teachers to activists) can engage in more equal dialogue with translanguaging scholars to increase the socially transformative effects of translanguaging.

Jaspers begins by translating a quote from Flemish educational sociologist Orhan Agirdag:

[T]he majority of linguists, neurologists, sociologists and educationalists agree that multilingualism is a better approach than imposed monolingualism. Mother tongue is as healthy as mother’s milk. Now we still have to convince politicians of that. (Agirdag, as cited in Jaspers, 2020, pp. 83-84; Jaspers’ translation)

This is only one example of discourse that Jaspers is concerned about, because it puts academics on one side of the divide and politicians (and by association, other laypeople) on the other. It is a discourse that paradoxically suggests that academics have special knowledge, while also suggesting that what academics know is so blatantly obvious… allowing other views to be dismissed as “a denial of reality, or as irrational, misguided, biased, and thus as irrelevant” (p. 85). Of course, policy should be based on facts and empirical research. But advancing translanguaging through a “fact-and-research” discourse alone has its limits. At some point, Jaspers argues, we need to talk about values—values that collide.

All over the world, there has been discourse on how to improve schools, and discourse analysts have observed how discourses of school improvement tend to divide “experts” from mere “holders of opinions” (e.g., Cameron, 1995; Heller, 1999). In a different situation, i.e., when there are small-scale but longstanding collaborations between academics and practitioners, they can jointly investigate and produce useful knowledge. These investigations, when done right and honestly, point to a lot of mixed findings regarding whether and how bi/multilingual practices are pedagogically effective and what kinds of socioemotional benefits do or do not arise when students’ bi/multilingualism is recognized in classrooms. Ultimately, however, when we produce knowledge, we must be aware of “the consequences of the knowledge we produce and the costs implied in terms of who profits and who loses from these forms of expertise” (Del Percio, Flubacher, & Duchêne, 2016, p. 70, as quoted in Jaspers, 2020, p. 86).

Jaspers explains how translanguaging scholars can underestimate teachers when scholars write about the humanizing pedagogy of translanguaging, or about students’ funds of linguistic/cultural knowledge, because it implies that teachers don’t already know about this:

[A]ligning these concerns with first principles that are imparted in even the most elementary kinds of teacher training in the last decades—that teachers should see their students as people and invite them to participate in class—seems at once to intimate authors’ skepticism about teachers’ capacity for critical thinking…. But most teachers work in institutions where various stakeholders (government, the principal, colleagues, parents) expect them to use or teach monolingual, standard, varieties, besides other subject matter. Even those teachers who are maximally aware of linguistic diversity and prepared to adapt their curricula will in these circumstances have to strike compromises… (pp. 88-89)

By arguing that the right ways are self-evident, translanguaging researchers—according to Jaspers—rob themselves of the opportunity to see how teachers skillfully navigate and reconcile competing imperatives, for example, how to balance dynamic translanguaging with arguing for rights for the speakers of particular codes, maintaining “target language only” zones for endangered languages (see the work by sociolinguists Cenoz and Gorter in this post), or effectively teaching standard varieties of a dominant language. Teachers are agentive professionals who prioritize, ignore, combine, and reconcile information, of whatever nature, according to purpose and context. [It is interesting, how in all the research on translanguaging students’ agency, there is little recognition of teachers or policymakers as equally skilled agents who pick and choose as they see fit from language policy in education and its associated language teacher training, but see Zavala (2015) and Johnson (2009) for such examples.]

Later, Jaspers criticizes Blommaert and Backus (2013), a study that I admire myself, for implying that standardized language frameworks like the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR) don’t measure the whole of one’s language repertoire. Jaspers acknowledges that of course standardized tests only measure a fraction of all that we can do with language, and sometimes they are used for discriminatory purposes, restricting access to welfare and housing. People who use the CEFR are not trying to know applicants’ complete repertoires but trying to assess parts of the repertoire that they find useful for their purposes. In arguing that the CEFR is “wrong” and that sociolinguistic methods for studying superdiversity are “right”—or in arguing about whether society is diglossic (“we use different languages for different purposes”) or heteroglossic (“we always bring our whole language repertoire to bear on interaction in all purposes”), we are engaging in a discussion of values and perspectives, not of absolute reality. And whatever linguistic data we collect, whether through tests, experiments, interviews, or ethnography, can be interpreted to find evidence of heteroglossia, diglossia, universality, particularity, or whatever you want to see, “depending on the value assumptions of those who interpret them” (p. 92).

So what is a better way for scholars to engage with practitioners and policymakers? Jaspers draws on Pielke’s (2007) four roles of academics: “pure scientists” who do not engage with the public, “science arbiters” who share findings and then go back to their study without further discussion, “issue advocates” who work with the public to promote a cause (such as translanguaging), and “honest brokers of alternatives.” In personal communication, Jaspers has stated: “…what I’ve learnt from him [Pielke] is that the same scientist can take up each of these 4 roles, and that none of them is ‘best’ since this is the outcome of choice scientists make depending on the context.”

However, given that there is a dominance of issue advocacy in translanguaging theory, i.e., many scholars choose the third role most of the time, Jaspers (2019) urges us to go beyond the mantra “we call instances of multilingualism translanguaging, and translanguaging is good” (for a discussion of this mantra, see Rymes and Smail, 2020). Instead, researchers need to ask stakeholders questions like the following, which invite diverse perspectives on translanguaging, and take into account the contradictory values teachers often have to contend with:

  • How would you like translanguaging to benefit your students, or what would you “count” as the benefits of translanguaging? How would you measure whether translanguaging is yielding these benefits? (formally or informally)
  • What narratives of self and society emerge from multilingual activities? How do you feel about these narratives? Are there others not touched upon?
  • Are you satisfied with your current assessments/tests, even if they only capture multilingual repertoires partially?
  • What are your goals for developing students as citizens? What kinds of language practices would achieve these goals? When and how would we encourage different types of language practices?
  • Even if you don’t speak some students’ language(s), would you be interested to know how to encourage students to use these to their educational advantage in small group work or in homework with family members?
  • I understand that your course’s main goal is to teach standard varieties of the dominant language and content in this language; would you be interested to learn how translanguaging practices can achieve these goals? Or: How are you already using translanguaging to achieve them?
  • Even if you encourage a “target language only” policy in your class that teaches an indigenous language in the process of being revitalized, would you like to compare this to how students use more fluid language practices outside of class (which may reflect the appropriate practices in each of these spaces)?
  • Would you like to investigate with us, using mixed methods, whether and to what extent proficiency in translanguaging is testable? [see work on this point with regard to Global Englishes; e.g., Brown, 2014]
  • Would you like to investigate with us when fluid language practices can be part of a teaching activity… and for what reasons, and in which contexts, they might be impractical?
  • Would you like to co-investigate how our language policies and teaching practices foster students’ security, employability, autonomy, and/or creativity? What do we say we do in discourse? How do we investigate whether we really do it? (My summary of Jaspers, 2020, pp. 96-99, as bullet points)

Jaspers admits that this requires much interdisciplinary work, specialists in different research methods, and collaboration with practitioners to find solutions to problems and investigate issues that matter to them: “The point is that by expanding the options experts allow stakeholders to select opportunities that are in line with their own values, and that this selection increases experts’ impact on practice” (p. 97). While education has rightly become more student-centered in recent years, the point is not to 100% reproduce what exists in the outside world (e.g., dynamic translanguaging) in the classroom. Both monolingual and bi/multilingual students rightly have to suffer either taught monolingualism or structured/pedagogical translanguaging, among other educational activities they find linguistically challenging, so that they can learn things they would not otherwise learn [though we must of course do something about how these burdens are unequally placed on language minoritized students].

If we accept that education seeks to shape people rather than simply reproducing nature, Jaspers argues that we must have a frank discussion of our differing values and opinions about how this shaping should take place. This should not involve academics putting on an “I’m on the side of truth and justice” discourse—a fact-and-evidence-based stance which is discursively linked to the “common good”—which actually makes translanguaging scholarship seem very positivist at times, borrowing Western Enlightenment rather than decolonial rhetoric (p. 94). Jaspers lists three broad goals of education: qualification, socialization, and subjectification, and suggests that scholars negotiate these with teachers: “What skills and qualifications should we teach students? What values should we socialize them to have? How do we foster their identity as agentive subjects who can make their own decisions (about language or anything else) based on information and experience?”

Scholars of translanguaging need to go beyond calling for alignment, or even critical self-reflection. They need to engage in dialogue with stakeholders, leading to co-constructed knowledge, exchange of values and negotiated action. The uniformity of much current translanguaging discourse is ironic given that it draws on Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia and Bakhtin’s insistence on multivocality (Jaspers, 2020, p. 101). Speaking of how much more heteroglossia could exist in the work on translanguaging, Jaspers concludes:

This can help us reclaim language-in-education policies from positivist discourses and reconstruct them as sites for jointly envisioning what types of language we find desirable and wish to pursue. Such an exercise draws attention to the fact that there are multiple purposes for education, and thus multiple roles for language to play; that these purposes can reinforce but also contradict each other; and that this often requires finding a compromise between them. We may thus have to revise our expectations about how straightforwardly teachers and other professionals can “act on information”. (Jaspers, 2020, p. 101)


  • In the first paper, Jaspers (2018) argued that translanguaging can provide exaggerated promises about decreasing social inequality or achieving better educational outcomes for minoritized students—promises that cannot be met due to the wider structures in society.
  • In the second paper, Jaspers (2011) illustrated how youth/students simultaneously maintain AND challenge the status quo through their language practices, as they ensure that their language practices are adequated, authenticated, and bestowed with authority. In unguided languaging, youth’s language practices maintain a tension between conformity and rebellion that is part of the human condition, rather than transforming into anything else more or less critical. Also, people’s identity concerns are more important to them than whether they are translanguaging, speaking monolingually, or speaking any code in a particular way.
  • In the third paper, Jaspers (2019) urges translanguaging researchers [and practitioners who take up translanguaging discourses] to move beyond positivist, Enlightenment discourses of “experts know the truth” and “what we know leads to the common good and social justice” to engage with other stakeholders, discussing a variety of policy/pedagogy alternatives and making choices based on negotiation to meet context-specific goals and needs.


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Published by annamend

Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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