Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Doing Translingual Dispositions

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Doing Translingual Dispositions

Article excerpt

The 2011 College English manifesto, Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Turn," written by Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur, and endorsed by fifty established scholars in US college composition, encourages the field to recognize the inherent plurality of language resources at play in any communicative act and compels teacher-scholars in composition to view language differences as resources to be cultivated. Beyond emphasizing the importance of developing intercultural communicative competence, the authors make the point that all language users today need to adopt a "translingual disposition" (Horner et al. 311). Suresh Canagarajah elaborates on this point by analyzing interviews with Subsaharan African migrants who use English as a foreign language to demonstrate the centrality of "a strong ethic of collaboration" to translingual competence (Translingual 180). Rebecca Lorimer Leonard makes a similar point in arguing that certain language users, through a lifetime of treating linguistic and cultural plurality as the norm, develop "rhetorical attunement," or "a literate understanding that assumes multiplicity and invites the negotiation of meaning across difference" (228). In other words, it may be argued that a translingual disposition, a general openness to language plurality and difference, is requisite to the development of skills such as translingual competence and rhetorical attunement. This article seeks to understand and analyze the ways in which translingual dispositions manifest themselves in textual artifacts.

In this essay, we investigate how translingual dispositions emerge in student writing that was composed as part of a global partnership between two courses, one delivered in a US university and another in a Hong Kong university. However, it is not our intention to simply offer suggestions and advice for teachers wishing to adopt a similar partnership. Rather, the purpose of this essay is to articulate how our experiences enable a reconsideration and extension of the critical point that a translingual approach to writing is of central significance to all students of composition, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to explore the multilayered and unpredictable ways in which translingual dispositions can manifest themselves in student writing. We show that an examination of writing provides a window into the varied ways in which students negotiate their linguistic identities and construct their ideological commitments to language difference. Although composition can become a space that facilitates opportunities for students to "do" translingual dispositions, these dispositions are constitutive of a constellation of highly complex sociocultural issues and experiences and therefore cannot be expected to be actualized or articulated in a preconceived and uniform manner.

We first draw on existing scholarship to explain what translingual dispositions are and argue for the urgency of doing translingual dispositions in composition. Next, we describe the rationale for the global partnership, along with an explanation of the pedagogical value of the associated readings and major assignment. We then identify the various ways in which students, including ostensibly monolingual students, can develop a disposition toward linguistic openness. Afterward, we provide further analysis of student writing in order to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of, as well as the pedagogical value of doing, translingual dispositions. We conclude by identifying several theoretical and pedagogical issues that warrant discussion in further developing a translingual turn in the field of composition.

What Are Translingual Dispositions? Why in Composition?

A translingual disposition is described by Horner et al. as a general openness "toward language and language differences" (311). This disposition allows individuals to move beyond preconceived, limited notions of standardness and correctness, and it therefore facilitates interactions involving different Englishes. …

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