Translanguaging and Critical Literacy

A Theoretical Introduction, Descriptors, and Lesson Plans for Teachers and Practitioners

by Gisela Mayr (Author)
©2022 Monographs 160 Pages
Series: Interkultureller Dialog, Volume 10


Translanguaging pedagogy values the dynamic interaction of languages. In doing so it promotes creative forms of learning in which critical literacy can develop in a trans-systemic approach. Thanks to the creation of translanguaging spaces, secondary school learners are engaged in plurilateral and multidirectional meaning making processes. While they are enquiring topical as well as socially and culturally relevant issues, they can develop critical engagement and civic empathy.
The present volume provides a theoretical framework with descriptors for multilingual critical literacy. In addition, it showcases lesson-plans on rap-literature(s) in more languages (German, Italian, English, Spanish) and other multimodal and plurilingual inputs, as well as translanguaging tasks.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Part I
  • 1. Introduction
  • 1.1. Language education and multilingualism
  • 1.2. Translanguaging and schooling
  • 1.3. Translanguaging: a new understanding of language
  • 1.4. Creating translanguaging spaces in school
  • 2. Mediation: a definition
  • 2.1. Mediation and language learning
  • 2.2. The importance of social interaction
  • 2.3. The zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • 2.4. Scaffolding
  • 3. Mediation in the multilingual classroom
  • 3.1. Mediation and translanguaging
  • 3.2. CEFR and CEFR/CV
  • 3.3. Critical annotations to the CEFR/CV
  • 4. Creating new interpersonal spaces
  • 4.1. A shift of perspective: away from additive language learning
  • 4.2. Linguistic inclusion and multilingualism
  • 4.3. Reversing power relations
  • 4.4. Mediation in the translanguaging class
  • 5. Critical literacy
  • 5.1. Multiple perspectives
  • 5.2. A new understanding of textuality
  • 5.3. Critical literacy and translanguaging
  • 5.4. Translanguaging and mediation for critical literacy
  • 5.4.1. Fake news and political manipulation
  • 5.4.2. Comparing multilingual and multimodal inputs
  • 5.4.3. The limits of what we can see
  • 5.4.4. Developing pedagogical settings for critical literacy
  • 6. Critical literacy and multilingualism
  • 6.1. Plurilingual learning and critical literacy
  • 6.2. Comparing and mediating meaning
  • 7. The Italian educational system and inclusion
  • 7.1. Inclusion and multilingualism
  • 7.2. The region
  • 7.2. The school
  • 7.3. The sample group
  • 8. Task-based learning
  • 8.1. The task approach
  • 8.2. Task-based language teaching and language education
  • 8.3. Task-based language teaching and linguistic diversity
  • 9. The MSCS (Plurilingual Curriculum South Tyrol)
  • Part II
  • 10 Planning a plurilingual task-based language teaching module
  • 10.1. Initiating plurilingual learning processes
  • 11. Descriptors: translanguaging for critical literacy
  • 11.1. The reader and the text
  • 11.2. The text and its context
  • 11.3. The message(s)
  • 11.4. The language(s)
  • 11.5. The words
  • 11.6. Power relations
  • 11.7. Critical plurilingual evaluation of texts
  • Part III
  • 12. The lesson plans
  • 12.1. Sample module 1: #AllLivesMatter
  • 12.1.1. Content and themes
  • 12.2. Sample module 2: Migration
  • 12.2.1. Migration and division (carousel learning)
  • 12.3. Sample module 3: #MeToo, gender inequality, and gender violence
  • References
  • Series index

←8 | 9→

Part I

Abstract: In Part one, the task approach is outlined and the theoretical underpinnings of a plurilingual task approach are explained. To this purpose the TBLT approach for language learning is further developed in order to live up to the more and more pressing requirements of multilingual learning. For this reason, a process model for a plurilingual TBLT is laid up in the attempt to create translanguaging spaces in which the TBLT principle can be applied. The aim is to create plurilingual pedagogical settings, in which learners are encouraged to use more than one language in the task solving process. In such learning settings, new multilingual forms of critical literacy can develop, thanks to the chosen topics. Mediation, as it occurs on the most different levels of interaction, is investigated and its importance for the creation of translanguaging-spaces as well as its scaffolding function for the learning process of students is explained. Mediation thus becomes a major factor for the development of multilingual critical literacy furthermore the local school setting is described, and the MSCS is presented. Finally, inclusion and its relevance for transalnguaging is identified as a priority of the Italian school system.

Key words: translanguaging spaces, critical literacy, mediation, inclusion.

←10 | 11→

1. Introduction

The terms translanguaging, polylanguaging, metrolingualism, and code-crossing that have appeared in recent decades point to the increasing interest in the field of language education to move away from traditional monolingual foreign or target language teaching to endowing learners with the ability to move freely between languages and cultures; in certain cases this has led to the questioning the notion of language as a distinct entity altogether. In today’s multilingual society, a high degree of flexibility is required, which also entails using more than one language simultaneously in discourse. Effective communication is no longer defined exclusively as the ability to achieve high proficiency in a particular language; rather, it requires the ability to develop strategies of mediation between both languages and cultures on several levels.

It is the intention of the present study to investigate the extent to which a translanguaging pedagogy triggers mediation practices in learners and how these practices in turn promote forms of inclusive learning that ultimately lead to a more profound understanding of the pressing social, political, and cultural challenges in our society. In other words, how do translanguaging practices and mediation create learning spaces in which each learner can participate actively and responsively in social and cultural discourse? In such spaces, each student takes on the role of mediator in an attempt to interpret and create meaning for themselves and for someone else. Where meaning is interpreted and created anew for the interlocutor, who may or may not share the same linguistic or cultural background, more than one language is involved (Dendrinos 2018). Shohamy in this sense wishes there were schools where all learners are enabled to participate in the learning process by activating and creatively deploying their full plurilingual repertoires, where they are given credit for their plurilingual competences, and where these are seen as personal assets and means of empowerment (Shohamy 2006: 174). For this purpose, it is commonly agreed among scholars (Shohamy 2011) that assessment also needs to be rethought and that mediation should be inserted as the dominant competence field.←11 | 12→

The present volume aims to contribute to the rapidly growing field of investigation of plurilingual learning and translanguaging. It seeks to shed light on one particular aspect that until now has received little attention; namely, translanguaging for critical literacy. It is assumed here that, thanks to the development of different mediation strategies between features of languages and cultural reference systems (see García & Wei 2014), learners gain a more profound view of complex social, political, and cultural issues such as social injustice and discrimination. This enables them to reflect critically and formulate opinions on a plurilingual and intercultural basis. Thanks to the multiple perspectives provided by plurilingual learning settings, learners acquire a better understanding of the complexity of the society in which they live, particularly with regard to central issues such as social justice and equality.

To achieve this purpose, the book presents the results of an empirical study carried out during the implementation of plurilingual task-based language teaching (TBLT) modules; that study investigated the forms of learning in the field of critical literacy that emerge in the course of plurilingual task completion. In particular, the book seeks to shed light on how critical literacy develops in plurilingual learning settings due to the initiation of different forms of mediation. On the basis of the results of the data analysis, a framework for a new plurilingual learning approach is elaborated, which follows the principles of TBLT and adapts it to the requirements of translanguaging didactics. In this framework for plurilingual critical literacy, seven macro-level areas of competence are identified, with descriptors provided for each are. Subsequently, two detailed sample lesson plans are outlined, with the aim of showcasing, by means of practical examples, what the structure of a plurilingual TBLT lesson might look like and what practical implications the theoretical principles the researcher was guided and inspired by brought about.

The scientific assumption supported here is that, in the plurilingual repertoire of the speaker, languages are not clearly separated entities; rather, transitions between one language and another are fluid. The author holds the view that teaching needs to take account of this fact and its consequences by creating plurilingual spaces that allow learners and the teacher “to engage in complex discursive practices” (García & Wei 2014: 76) where all languages are used and required to convey meaning (Creese & Blackledge ←12 | 13→2010a: 2012). It is a space where, as Sultana (2014: 42) states, language is not seen as consisting of merely linguistic features but of multi-layered meanings that make out those linguistic features: “The micro-level details of utterances such as accent and mixed linguistic forms lead to macro-level dimensions such as speakers’ values, historical and political dynamics of language” (Sultana 2014: 42).

1.1. Language education and multilingualism

The task approach developed out of the communicative approach at the end of the 1980s, and has proven over the last few decades to be one of the most successful approaches to foreign language learning (FLL). The underlying idea is to confront learners in the foreign language classroom with meaningful tasks that they have to tackle autonomously. During the task-solving phase, the learners use language in a meaningful and realistic context that is functional for the content and task they are solving. This implies that the learning goal is no longer limited to the mere transmission of language structures and vocabulary; rather, it focuses on realistic content and tasks that need to be tackled by the learner (Littlewood 2004; Nunan 2004; Willis & Willis 2007). Language education that seeks to promote such communicative competence must integrate social participation with learning and consequently requires learning settings which initiate a learning process that involves learners in discursive and problem-solving processes dealing with real-world issues (Piepho 1974; 1979).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (February)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 160 pp., 1 fig. b/w, 31 tables.

Biographical notes

Gisela Mayr (Author)

Gisela Mayr is a qualified teacher of English language and culture in secondary school in Bolzano, South Tyrol. In 2019 she graduated at the University of Gießen, Germany. Since 2022 she is a researcher in the field of German literature and multilingualism at the Free University of Bolzano, Faculty of Education. Her main research interests are multilingualism, language learning, inclusion, and FLL.


Title: Translanguaging and Critical Literacy
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
162 pages