Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Translanguaging, Coloniality, and English Classrooms: An Exploration of Two Bicoastal Urban Classrooms

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Translanguaging, Coloniality, and English Classrooms: An Exploration of Two Bicoastal Urban Classrooms

Article excerpt

As one of the largest school-aged populations, Latinxs1-with their concomitant diverse demographic profile-are far from a monolithic entity. However, despite their diversity and unlike most immigrant groups, Latinxs share a history of US domination, intervention, and occupation that spans centuries in Latin America and in the United States itself (González, 2000). Within the United States, García (2009b) notes that the linguistic colonization of Latinxs unfolded through "a policy of eradicating Spanish by encouraging a shift to English" (p. 111). She explains that the United States has done this "by adopting a policy of debasing and racializing Spanish, linking it to subjugated populations, immigration, poverty, and a lack of education" (García, 2009b, p. 111).

Power-laden social, linguistic, and racial hierarchies saturate the lives of Latinxs in myriad ways, primarily through the "coloniality of being" (Mignolo, 2000), where Latinx children's lived experiences, schooling, and languages are surveilled through restrictive policies. While studying the translingual practices of Latinx youth is not a new phenomenon, few empirical studies examine how secondary English classrooms use translanguaging pedagogies. In addition, the colonial roots intertwined with English education, especially for Latinx youth, make these classrooms fertile ground for decolonial and translingual approaches.

This article focuses on releasing Latinx youth's translingual voices as they write against colonial language ideologies in two bicoastal cities. As Latinx youth constitute the largest student population in both California and New York, we examine Latinx students from two urban English classrooms taught by two teachers (one monolingual and the other bilingual) to understand how translanguaging pedagogies transpired across contexts. Rather than separate students' language practices, the teachers adopted "discursive and pedagogical practices that break the hegemony of the dominant language in monolingual classrooms" (García, Flores, & Woodley, 2012, p. 45). Our collaboration between a Chicana researcher and a White researcher lent insight into one another's examination of curricula that encouraged "border thinking" (Mignolo, 2000), or the knowledge generated from the exterior borders of the modern/colonial world. For the mostly Mexican and Dominican youth in our studies, their existence in and ties to the United States are laced with tumultuous colonial pasts and unique but similar histories of immigration (González, 2000). These histories became the subject of inquiry and resistance through a translingual approach to English instruction.

Morrell's (2015) call to action for more "courageous leadership" (p. 317) in dismantling the linguistic racism in our nation's English classrooms inspired our research collaboration. Our data, which include participant observation, field notes, and analysis of student writings, illustrate how the teachers' implementation of a translanguaging pedagogy-particularly their stance, or their set of beliefs about students and their language practices, and their design, their organization of classroom life that brought to the surface the diversity of students' language practices (García et al., 2017)-benefited Latinx bilingual students. Thus, our collaboration inspired two interrelated questions: (1) How do two teachers in English classrooms implement translanguaging pedagogies? and (2) When such pedagogies are implemented, what language and literacy practices emerge from Latinx bilingual students? Through our analysis, we illustrate that the two teachers' reimagining of the English classroom through a translanguaging lens made space for students to reflect on their linguistic and cultural identities and use their rich language practices to resist colonial ideologies.

The term translanguaging describes the language practices of our participants. Rather than start with socially constructed "languages" (and thus discuss how students "switch" b etween such "languages"), we start with the speakers, whose creative and critical enactment of their holistic repertoire (Makoni & Pennycook, 2007; Li Wei, 2011) cannot be separated into such dualities as "first/second" or "standard/ nonstandard" language. …

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