November 2016
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Mohsen H. Moghaddam, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. London, England: Palgrave MacMillan UK. 165 pages.

Ofelia García and Li Wei published their seminal book, Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism, and Education, in 2014. The book is divided into two parts. The first part of the book consists of two chapters and addresses the development of the traditional notion of language and bilingualism into languaging and the emergence of the term "translanguaging.” The second part of the book consists of five chapters and reviews the way education, particularly bilingual and monolingual education, has been viewed traditionally.

García and Wei start Chapter 1, "Language Learning and Bilingualism," by introducing structuralist and mentalist conceptions of language and how the Bakhtinian concept of heteroglossia challenges these concepts. They introduce the concept of languaging, which is an important part of the term translanguaging, and show how the shift from language to languaging led to the emergence of translanguaging. They review bilingualism, multilingualism, and plurilingualism as concepts and argue that the Saussurean view of language, which is a monolingual perspective, formed the underlying root of the traditional definition of these concepts. García and Wei propose that dynamic bilingualism research has indicated that, unlike traditional views, bilingual speakers’ languages interact with each other in listening or speaking.

In Chapter 2, the authors explain the differences between translanguaging and code switching, arguing that translanguaging "is not simply a shift or a shuttle between two languages" (p. 22). Then they argue that translanguaging goes beyond the idea of multicompetence of bilingual speakers (Cook, 2008) and hybridity theory. It also goes beyond oral interaction as it includes other modalities and modes such as image, speech, writing, and artifact.

García and Wei end part one of the book by referring to a number of terms such as crossing, transidiomatic practices, polylingualism, metrolingualism, multivocality, codemeshing, and bilanguaging. The authors argue that translanguaging is the only term that can capture the fluid language practices of language users.

The second part of the book, “Education and Translanguaging,” starts with the argument that education in government-based schools is still focusing on monolingual “academic standard” practices and is mostly provided in the language of the powerful group. The authors argue that bilingual education programs must help learners to become critically conscious and empower them to engage with the relationship between language and power. I entirely believe that García and Wei are right about this; research has shown that one of the main reasons for underachievement of culturally and linguistically diverse students is the existence of social power relations in the school context (see, e.g., Cummins, 2009; Cummins, Hu, Markus, & Montero, 2015).

Chapters 5 and 6 are dedicated to the potential of translanguaging in changing the nature of teaching and learning. They introduce pupil-directed translanguaging and teacher-directed translanguaging in Chapter 5. The authors go on to view translanguaging as pedagogy which refers to "building on bilingual students’ language practices flexibly in order to develop new understandings and new language practices, including those deemed ‘academic standard’ practices" (p. 92) and explain that it is important for classes with students from linguistically diverse backgrounds because it builds on the linguistic strengths of students. Chapter 6 might be a favorite of those who want to see how they can apply translanguaging in their classroom when teaching different courses. In this chapter, the authors provide examples of translanguaging in mathematics, social studies, science, and English language arts classrooms.

Chapter 7 explores the principles and strategies that can be used when teachers are practicing translanguaging pedagogy. In all of these principles and strategies, students' first language plays a key role. This is because part of bilingual learners' knowledge could be in their first language. By encouraging learners to use their first language and activating this knowledge, students can bring their previous knowledge into the new context. Cummins (2009) states that instruction for culturally and linguistically diverse students is effective when their prior knowledge is activated and background knowledge is built by the instruction. Chapter 7 also addresses two challenges of using translanguaging in education: the challenge of developing students’ understanding of how to do translanguaging as a legitimate practice and the challenge of using translanguaging in assessment and developing translanguaged assessment.

The book ends with a short conclusion addressing the issue that translanguaging is not limited to language and education only. García and Wei state that although they focused on language and education throughout the book, the notion of translanguaging goes beyond these areas.

I agree with the authors that use of minority students' home language in the classroom provides more equitable educational opportunities and brings social justice into the classroom environment. Some students in multilingual classrooms may know the content of the course; however, because of a lack of proficiency in the language of school, they may not participate fully in class discussions. Cummins et al. (2005) argue that "by welcoming a student's home language, schools facilitate the flow of knowledge, ideas, and feelings between home and school and across languages" (p. 41). They state that these types of pedagogical practices are different from the regular pedagogies we see in schools because the teacher accepts that the language in which bilingual learners' prior experience is encoded is a significant resource for learning. Another advantage of bringing students' home language into the classroom is the affirmation of students’ identities. By respecting students’ language and culture, Cummins et al. (2005) state, students engage with literacy more and invest their identities in learning (p. 42). Identity investment and positionality are, according to García and Wei, two of the goals of teachers who use translanguaging for teaching to learn content and language (p. 120).

Overall, García’s and Wei's book effectively explores how the notion of translanguaging transforms and alters our traditional understanding of language, bilingualism, and education and can prepare learners for today's globalized world. It brings theoretical as well as practical issues into consideration to show the importance of translanguaging. The book has implications for teachers to improve their knowledge of bilingual education and to prepare them to work with bilingual students. Teacher education and training programs should also include bilingual principles and strategies in their training courses. Teachers should be aware that any connection to the learners' first language and culture will have a direct effect on their academic success. Cummins (2009, p. 11) points out that when students feel that their culture and identity are affirmed, they are much more likely to engage with literacy than those whose cultures and identities are disregarded. Another implication of García’s and Wei's argument is that bilingual/multilingual learners have to be viewed as social actors who have different degrees of proficiency in several languages and the experience of several cultures (Marshall & Moore, 2013, p. 477). This means that we need to consider bilingual/multilingual children as plurilingual competent learners who can use several languages in varying different degrees for several purposes.


Cook, V. J. (2008). Second language learning and language teaching. London, England: Arnold.

Cummins, J. (2009). Transformative multiliteracies pedagogy: School-based strategies for closing the achievement gap. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 11(2), 38–56.

Cummins, J., Bismilla, V., Chow, P., Cohen, S., Giampapa, F., Leoni, L.,Sandhu, O., & Sastri, P. (2005). Affirming identity in multilingual classrooms. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 38–43.

Cummins, J., Hu, S., Markus, P., & Montero, M. (2015). Identity texts and academic achievement: Connecting the dots in multilingual school contexts. TESOL Quarterly, 49, 555–581.

Marshall, S., & Moore, D. (2013). 2B or Not 2B plurilingual? Navigating languages, literacies, and plurilingual competence in postsecondary education in Canada. TESOL Quarterly 47, 472–499.

Mohsen H. Moghaddam is a second-year PhD student in languages, cultures, and literacies at Simon Fraser University. He received his first master's degree in applied linguistics (ELT) from University of Tehran and his second master's degree in Education from Simon Fraser University. His research interests are multilingual education and social justice, multiliteracies, and multimodalities.

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