Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Reflecting on Translanguaging in Multilingual Classrooms: Harnessing the Power of Poetry and Photography

Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Reflecting on Translanguaging in Multilingual Classrooms: Harnessing the Power of Poetry and Photography

Article excerpt


Students' humanity-its existence and expansion-is at the heart of a humanising pedagogy. All students and all teachers are human beings and equal in their humanity. We are all in the process of becoming. The purposes of education are to extend this humanity through opportunities for creativity, imagination, and interaction with others and the world (Zinn & Rodgers, 2012, p. 87).

In this article, I argue that translanguaging can be used as a pedagogical tool in multilingual classrooms to bridge communication in nuanced ways and bring about a more humanising experience for both learners and teachers. Translanguaging as a structured metacognitive language process enables epistemological access (Heugh, 2015) and the crafting of sociocultural identities (García & Wei, 2015).

Lack of acceptance of the languages and "ways of knowing" of learners can result in dehumanising experiences in classrooms (Salazar, 2013, p. 121) as certain children within a classroom are often viewed in a negative light (Comber & Kamler, 2004; Hertzog, 2011; Hornberger, 2002). Comber and Kamler (2004, p. 293) emphasised how "the poor, the wilful, the disabled, the non-English speaking, the slow, the bottom 10%" have been cast as deficient and insufficient. Learners who are not skilled in the dominant language of the classroom appear to be seen as less able and less worthy. When the "treasures" of language and culture are forced to remain outside the classroom door, this can result in a sense of humiliation at the rejection of vital aspects of being human (Salazar, 2013, p. 121).


This research emerges out of my participation-as teacher educator-in a humanising pedagogy reflection process undertaken in 2011 at the South African university where I am employed. Students and staff were invited to take part in various activities to think and learn about what a humanising pedagogy might mean for them and the institution (Zinn & Rodgers, 2012). The participants' stories were woven with understandings of humanising work and thinking (Freire, 1972, 2005). The "Statements of Awareness" developed from the process provided the impetus for further exploration and inquiry (Zinn & Rodgers, 2012, p. 84).

The various insights regarding the concept of a humanising pedagogy emerging during this process extended my thinking about my own classroom and the classrooms of the student teachers I teach. The work of Bartolomé (1994), Huerta (2011), Renner, Brown, Stiens, and Burton (2010), and Salazar (2008, 2010, 2013) continues to provide a lens to consider teaching and learning practices. Visits to primary school classrooms and subsequent reflections have left me with the uneasy sense that many learners appear to be othered and dehumanised. Some of the classrooms where our student teachers learn to teach are environments that seem to privilege certain children and subordinate others. In many instances, I sensed a disconnect between the dominant language of the classroom and the home language of learners, confirming the assertions of Mda (2004) and Probyn (2001) that the primary language of learners is often not tolerated and use of this language in the classroom and on the playground is frequently forbidden.

In this article, the complex realities of primary school classrooms are considered. The term, Home Language (capitalised) will be used to refer to a level of teaching, while the use of home language will contain an understanding of the language coming from the home, as opposed to the language used predominantly at school for teaching. The terms main language and mother tongue will be used as synonyms for home language to denote a primary or strong language that the child acquires in the home from an early age.

Language in the South African Schooling Context

South Africa has multifarious classroom language situations. Schools have to organise learning and teaching at a minimum of two language levels. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.