Academic journal article College English

Beyond Translingual Writing

Academic journal article College English

Beyond Translingual Writing

Article excerpt

Following the publication of the 2011 College English manifesto "Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Turn," authored by Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur, translingualism has emerged as a popular theoretical concept within composition studies. The manifesto, endorsed by fifty established scholars in the discipline, emphasized the need to view traditional language boundaries as dynamic and fluid, rather than static and impermeable, arguing that such a paradigm shiftwould enable writers to "engage the fluidity of language in pursuit of new knowledge, new ways of knowing, and more peaceful relations" (Horner et al. 307). Although scholars in cognate academic disciplines such as education, applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, and linguistic anthropology had attended to similar concerns regarding language diversity much earlier than the manifesto's publication, as Paul Kei Matsuda reminds us ("Lure"), it was through the manifesto that the discourse of translingualism gained prominence within the discipline of composition studies in the United States, a fact evident in the growing number of publications in composition studies journals and conference presentations that have some variant of "translingual" in the title.

At first glance, a translingual orientation would appear to align with the principles of linguistic social justice in that it attempts to afford rights to all students in spite of their "proficiency" in English according to parochial, monolingual, monolithic norms. However, the very fact that most teachers and programs must use a standard or norm to evaluate and grade students and their writing, regardless of their pedagogical orientation, and that there has been little to no scholarly treatment of how translingual approaches might be assessed, begs the question of whether the translingual turn aligns with or contradicts the principles of social justice. In other words, do we work against social justice aims if we do not teach to and assess using a standardized English? Obviously, teaching standardized English is not solely an either/or proposition, but the assessment of student writing often puts us in a position where we must make such decisions.

If a social justice agenda for writing assessment is about creating opportunity structures and positive consequences for all students, then classroom grading is an obvious place to focus our efforts. Classroom grading practices have been closely connected to an unchallenged, dominant discursive standard in writing classrooms and programs. It has been argued that grading writing can be damaging and may not be helpful to a student's development in schools (Yancey and Huot; Kohn, "Case," Punished). Often those in writing studies offer descriptive or narrative solutions (Bleich; Huot) or ones around contract grading and the sharing of power (Danielewicz and Elbow; Inoue, "Grade-Less"; Shiffman; Shor), however, these reasonable solutions often do not explicitly address their consequences on marginalized student populations, especially multilingual students. Of course, there is a significant body of research that has questioned the accuracy of different types of formal assessment on multilingual students (Hamp-Lyons; Horowitz), the effectiveness of error correction (along with the very notion of what can be considered "good" writing across different cultural contexts (Currie). Alternatively, many have argued for teachers to learn the language practices of their linguistically diverse students (Ball; Kamusikiri), such as African American English. But these approaches, despite their concerns about judging instances of nondominant discourses as deficit, do not adequately address the problems with a single standard applied unilaterally in a classroom space. Brian Huot argues for "instructive evaluation," a "pedagogy for assessment with our students that focuses on their writing and the choices writers make, . . . involv[ing] the student in the process of evaluation" (69). …

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