November 2022 – Volume 26, Number 3
Grace Jue Yeon Kim
Bucknell University, USA
The Ohio State University, USA
This systematic review analyzes 20 empirical articles on translanguaging (TL) pedagogies in ESL and EFL contexts. The review is guided by the following questions: (1) How is TL implemented across different teaching contexts? (2) What are the identified benefits and challenges in the implementation of TL in TESOL? (3) What are the identified future directions?
Findings indicate that, in ESL contexts, educational equity was more emphasized in the implementation of TL pedagogies, whereas in EFL contexts, the TL pedagogies were more used for instruction reinforcement and creation of class rapport. Furthermore, in K-12 contexts, TL pedagogies were used for disciplining student behavior and promoting equal access to knowledge. In higher education, TL pedagogies empowered students in multilingual written and oral communication. Numerous benefits and challenges of implementing TL, along with future directions for research, were identified in the selected articles. TL pedagogies fostered an inclusive learning environment, increased students’ participation, and facilitated students’ English learning. The identified challenges included logistical issues in the implementation of TL strategies, along with strong adherence to language separation ideologies. For future research, the selected studies propose various topics including the effectiveness of TL pedagogies and call for expansion of research on pedagogical TL.
Keywords: translanguaging pedagogies, TESOL, ESL, EFL, K-12, higher education
Translanguaging (TL) has gained interest in recent years and has had the most impact in the field of education (García & Kleyn, 2016). TL as a pedagogy not only invites students’ full linguistic and cultural repertoires but also promotes equitable learning environments for social justice (García & Leiva, 2014). While several empirical studies have been conducted on TL pedagogies in diverse teaching contexts including English as Second Language (ESL) settings (e.g., Burton & Rajendram, 2019; Weng & Ataei, 2022), most studies were published in bilingual education contexts situated in the USA (Daniel et al., 2019), and still less is known in other contexts at an international level. Responding to this gap in the field, a recently published book edited by Tian et al. (2020) asserted a need for more research on TL in TESOL classrooms (see Sembiante & Tian, 2020). This systematic review analyzes empirical studies on TL in ESL and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms (i.e., K-12 schools and higher education) that are available as of February 2022. In total, 20 articles published in peer-reviewed journals were selected through systematic search. The analysis of the selected articles was guided by the following research questions:
- How is TL implemented across different teaching contexts?
- What are the identified benefits and challenges in the implementation of TL in TESOL?
- What are the identified future directions?
By exploring these questions, we aimed to identify the current address in the field and propose future directions for teaching and research.
Overview of Pedagogical Translanguaging
In recent years, TL has gained wide acceptance in the field of education, especially in the field of bilingual education. The term TL, trawsieithu, was first coined by Cen Williams in 1994 in reference to a pedagogical practice where Welsh-English bilingual students are asked to alternate languages (as cited in García & Lin, 2016). The concept was extended beyond the Welsh context in the 21st century, thanks to the contributions of the scholars in various fields (Canagarajah, 2011; Creese & Blackledge, 2010; García, 2009; Hornberger & Link, 2012). García (2009) defines TL as “multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of their bilingual worlds” (p. 45). TL as a framework considers bi/multilinguals’ fluid language use as a norm (García & Li Wei, 2014). This framework can be understood from sociolinguistic and pedagogical perspectives. From a sociolinguistic perspective, TL “describes the fluid language practices of bilingual communities” (Flores & Schissel, 2014, p. 461). On the other hand, the pedagogical perspective describes “the process whereby teachers build bridges between these language practices and the language practices desired in formal school settings” (Flores & Schissel, 2014, p. 462).
While the term TL has a wide range of meanings, this paper specifically focuses on pedagogical TL. Cenoz and Gorter (2021), in their book on pedagogical TL, define it as “a theoretical and instructional approach that aims at improving language and content competences in school contexts by using resources from the learner’s whole linguistic repertoire” (p. 1). Gort and Sembiante (2015) describe TL pedagogies with a focus on the multidirectionality aspect among teachers and students. They define TL pedagogies as “the dynamic and discursive exchanges in which teachers and students engage as they draw on and choose from multiple languages and language varieties” (p. 9). In addition to inviting learners’ multiple languages and cultures as resources, TL pedagogies can, thus, disrupt monoglossic ideologies, which “values only monolingualism and ignores bilingualism” (García & Torres-Guevara, 2009, p. 182), and empower linguistically minoritized communities (García, 2017; Poza, 2017). Research on TL pedagogies has examined numerous topics, including identities (García-Mateus & Palmer, 2017), language ideologies (Martínez et al., 2015), and scientific argumentation (Infante & Licona, 2018). TL pedagogies are also explored in various contexts, mostly in dual language bilingual education contexts (Creese & Blackledge, 2010; Gort & Sembiante, 2015; Palmer et al., 2014; Pontier & Gort, 2016; Probyn, 2015; Vaish, 2019b). Within the field of TESOL, research on translanguaging not only transforms the existing teaching methods and language ideologies in TESOL but also calls for social equity (Sayer, 2020).
This study adopts the systematic review as the methodology to “investigate and evaluate past findings in a systematic fashion” (Ortega, 2015, p. 225). The methodology includes the techniques for synthesizing quantitative research (i.e., meta-analysis) and qualitative research (i.e., meta-synthesis). Despite the dominating interest in meta-analysis, the number of publications that reviewed qualitative research systematically is on the rise in the field of applied linguistics (e.g., Prilutskaya, 2021; Weng et al., 2019). In this study, we analyzed the qualitative research articles systematically by following the steps proposed by Ortega (2015): (1) problem specification, (2) literature search and study eligibility criteria, (3) coding book development, (4) coding of studies, (5) data analysis and display, and (6) interpretation and determination.
The article selection process consisted of three major rounds. In Round 1 of search, we used the guiding keywords (“translanguaging,” “classroom pedagogy,” and “TESOL”) and searched for empirical studies in peer reviewed journals in Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, EBSCOhost, and ERIC. We logged our search results from different databases, eliminated duplicated searches, and tentatively kept 44 articles. In Round 2, we searched in JSTOR, MLA, ScienceDirect, Wiley Online Library, and Cambridge Journals Online to include more studies. A study was tentatively selected if it matched at least one of the listed key terms in their titles, keywords, and abstracts. Similar to Round 1, we logged the search results, examined the studies, and included 11 more articles that met the criteria. In total, 55 articles were finalized from the search process in Rounds 1 and 2. In Round 3, we undertook a closer screening of the selected articles by following the criteria: (1) peer-reviewed journal articles, (2) classroom-based pedagogical research, (3) qualitative studies which include class observation data, (4) teachers as the participants, and (5) TESOL contexts. We selected qualitative studies to analyze descriptive data about teacher’s implementation of TL pedagogy in their actual teaching. In the case of the criterion number five, we selected the articles that were conducted in ESL and EFL contexts to examine how TL pedagogy is implemented in these two different contexts and to compare the two. Based on the criteria, our search resulted in 20 articles. Throughout the search process, we recorded the search results in an excel spreadsheet (one spreadsheet for each round), documented all the collected studies alphabetically, and listed the research contexts and participants to prepare for the coding and data analysis. Table 1 presents the general contexts and participants of the finalized studies to provide an overview of the selected articles. (We included the descriptions stated in the selected articles.)
Table 1. Contexts and Participants of the Selected Articles
|1||Allard, E. C. (2017). Re-examining teacher translanguaging: An ecological perspective.||USA||A suburban high school ESL program||Two teachers|
|2||Back, M. (2020). “It is a village”: Translanguaging pedagogies and collective responsibility in a rural school district.||USA||Professional development in TESOL||A third-grade mainstream teacher, a literacy coach, and a Spanish teacher|
|3||Carroll, K. S., & Morales, A. N. S. (2016). Using university students’ L1 as a resource: Translanguaging in a Puerto Rican ESL classroom.||Puerto Rico||A college ESL classroom||One instructor and 29 student participants|
|4||Caruso, E. (2018). Translanguaging in higher education: Using several languages for the analysis of academic content in the teaching and learning process.||Portugal||A multilingual classroom in a university||A multilingual classroom, including six local students, seven Erasmus students, and a professor|
|5||Daniel, S. M., Jiménez, R. T., Pray, L., & Pacheco, M. B. (2019). Scaffolding to make translanguaging a classroom norm..||USA||Two elementary schools||Elementary teachers|
|6||De Los Reyes, R. A. (2019). Translanguaging in multilingual third grade ESL classrooms in Mindanao, Philippines.||Philippines||Two third grade ESL classrooms||Two teachers and their students|
|7||Fang, F., & Liu, Y. (2020). ‘Using all English is not always meaningful’: Stakeholders’ perspectives on the use of and attitudes towards translanguaging at a Chinese university.||China||University||Five teachers and 162 university students|
|8||Galante, A. (2020). Pedagogical translanguaging in a multilingual English program in Canada: Student and teacher perspectives of challenges.||Canada||English language program in a university||Seven language teachers and 79 students|
|9||Hurst, E., & Mona, M. (2017). “Translanguaging” as a socially just pedagogy.||South Africa||University||Two English lecturers and students|
|10||Liu, J. E., Lo, Y. Y., & Lin, A. M. Y. (2020). Translanguaging pedagogy in teaching English for academic purposes: Researcher-teacher collaboration as a professional development model.||China||Master’s in Public Health program at the medical college of a university||One teacher and first year students|
|11||Moore, P. (2017). Becoming bilingual in the EFL classroom.||Spain||English language course at a public university||One teacher and 96 students|
|12||Ollerhead, S. (2019). Teaching across semiotic modes with multilingual learners: Translanguaging in an Australian classroom.||Australia||A specialised secondary school||One teacher and 16 migrant students|
|13||Ortega, Y. (2019). “Teacher, ¿Puedo hablar en español?” A reflection on plurilingualism and translanguaging practices in EFL..||Colombia||EFL high school||A teacher|
|14||Portolés, L., & Martí, O. (2017). Translanguaging as a teaching resource in early language learning of English as an additional language (EAL).||Spain||Kindergarten in Valencia||One teacher and 25 EAL kindergarteners|
|15||Rabbidge, M. (2019). The effects of translanguaging on participation in EFL classrooms.||South Korea||Elementary schools within the same city||Three Korean English teachers|
|16||Vaish, V. (2019a). Challenges and directions in implementing translanguaging pedagogy for low achieving students.||Singapore||An elementary school||A teacher and eight students in an English reading class|
|17||Van Viegen, S. (2020). Translanguaging for and as learning with youth from refugee backgrounds.||Canada||Secondary schools||Teachers and refugee students|
|18||Yuvayapan, F. (2019). Translanguaging in EFL classrooms: Teachers’ perceptions and practices.||Turkey||State and private school||50 teachers (all grade levels)|
|19||Zhang, R., & Chan, B. H. (2021). Pedagogical translanguaging in a trilingual context: The case of two EFL classrooms in a Xinjian university.||China||Xinjiang university||Two Uyghur teachers and students|
|20||Zuo, M., & Walsh, S. (2021). Translation in EFL teacher talk in Chinese universities: A translanguaging perspective.||China||EFL classrooms in two Chinese universities||Teachers and students from three teaching sessions|
As shown in Table 1, the collected research studies were conducted in a wide range of countries: China (n=4), USA (n=3), Canada (n=2), Spain (n=2), Australia (n=1), Colombia (n=1), Philippines (n=1), Portugal (n=1), Puerto Rico (n=1), South Korea (n=1), Singapore (n=1), South Africa (n=1), and Turkey (n=1).
Coding & Data Analysis
After finalizing the search, we started intensive and systematic data analysis, using both top-down and bottom-up coding systems (Merriam, 2009). Specifically, to answer the first research question (i.e., How is TL implemented across different teaching contexts?), the top-down process was adopted to re-organize all the studies based upon contexts, that is, ESL, EFL, K-12, and higher education. After all the studies were sorted out according to the contexts, the bottom-up process was adopted to read each article under its designated context and extract all the strategies and purposes as reported in those studies regarding the implementation of TL pedagogies. It was followed by comparing and contrasting the findings across the contexts (i.e., ESL vs. EFL and K-12 vs. higher education). The top-down process was adopted again to answer the research questions 2 and 3 (i.e., What are the identified benefits and challenges? and What are the identified future directions?). We narrowed the scope to the specific themes in relation to benefits, challenges, and future directions. Similar to the process for the research question 1, the bottom-up process of analyzing the articles was adopted to identify the themes related to the above mentioned three aspects. The findings were constantly revised and refined as the data analysis process progressed.
We present our findings in the following sections based upon our research questions. First, the findings related to RQ 1—that is, based upon the contexts (e.g., ESL vs. EFL; K-12 vs. Higher Education)—are described. The following section demonstrates the findings related to RQs 2 and 3, that is, the identified challenges and benefits, as well as future directions, in the selected studies.
RQ1: How is TL implemented across different teaching contexts?
TL in ESL vs. EFL Contexts. Regarding the first research question, findings showed that meaningful integration of TL in the learning context can lead to productive TL pedagogies which, in the collected studies, are often reflected in translation strategies. It also seems that TL approach was widely used in contexts where students had low English proficiency. To be more specific, in ESL contexts (e.g., USA, Canada, and Singapore), the student population in the collected studies revealed to be “superdiverse,” a term used to “refer to increasing border crossing, both physically and linguistically, in an age of immense globalization” (Vaish, 2019a, p. 276); however, teachers generally had limited linguistic proficiency in students’ home languages. Despite the constraint, TL pedagogies were used mainly through translation modeled by teachers and practiced by students (e.g., Daniel et al., 2019). For example, situated in a highly diverse southeastern metropolitan school district in the US, Daniel et al. (2019) explored two elementary teachers’ strategies in helping students understand TL as a valuable practice in an English-only school context. The two teachers first engaged students in discussing the benefits of translation for communication and learning in school, and then they made TL as a new norm of their class instruction through engaging students in translating writing across languages. This means they scaffolded students’ TL in class by designing well-structured partner work, modeling, and building up students’ translation skills over time. They further introduced translation strategies to students so that the students could strategically leverage their TL in school. The teachers’ scaffolds on students’ translating skills helped students recognize the value of TL and also develop their writing and spelling skills across languages.
In another study, Vaish (2019a) dealt with superdiversity of linguistic backgrounds in a classroom in Singapore, and the languages present in class included English, Tamil, Chinese, and Malay. Due to the diversity of students’ home languages represented in class, the class had three teachers, two of whom were research assistants. These teachers were all bilinguals (i.e., Chinese-English, Malay-English, or Tamil-English). Translating English texts into students’ home languages—the main TL method—was intended to reinforce students’ understanding of English words and increase their “metalinguistic awareness of synonyms or near synonyms between languages” (Vaish, 2019a, p. 284). However, the study found that asking students to translate words across the various language groups was too time-consuming and inefficient. In case of a secondary school context with refugee students, Van Viegen (2020) found that teachers utilized the TL strategies in classroom interaction and communication to include students from diverse national backgrounds (Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Congo, Mali, Somalia, Palestine, Columbia, and El Salvador) and to model metalinguistic thinking. Furthermore, students were free to use their language resources in learning. For instance, they were allowed to use their home language to translate key words in their written work. The use of TL pedagogies in ESL context is partially meant to foster educational equity among students.
In EFL contexts (e.g., China, Japan, and Rwanda), this purpose was not salient. TL was instead favored in teaching students with low English proficiency and was usually used as a translation strategy for comprehension check, concept explanation, content knowledge localization, instruction reinforcement, and creation of class rapport (e.g., Fang & Liu, 2020; Zuo & Walsh, 2021). For example, situated in a Chinese university where English was used as the medium of instruction, Fang and Liu (2020) found that the teachers utilized Chinese in the explanation to contextualize knowledge with English origin and to direct students’ attention to certain instructions.
In Zhang and Chan’s (2021) study, two EFL classes in a Xinjiang university in China were observed for teacher participants’ TL practice. As the classes were for Uyghur students, three languages were present in class: English (the target language), Mandarin Chinese (the national language), and Uyghur (students’ mother tongue). It is reported that Uyghur teachers used Mandarin Chinese and Uyghur to teach English vocabulary and explain English grammar “to make examples culturally familiar to students, and to involve students [in] in-class activities” (Zhang & Chan, 2021, pp. 4-5). For example, the two Uyghur teachers translanguaged across English, Mandarin Chinese, and Uyghur to teach English words that are similar to Uyghur and to explain the usage of antonyms. In doing this, students were actively involved in making cross-linguistic connections among vocabulary items. Similarly, the teachers translanguaged to teach grammar points. For instance, the teachers compared sentence patterns in Uyghur with those of English.
What was found similar between ESL and EFL contexts is that, when teachers received sufficient training and developed deeper understanding of TL pedagogies, their implementation of the method was reported to become more efficient. For example, Black (2020) discussed how three teachers from different backgrounds all developed TL stances and initiated changes in their schools (e.g., inviting families and communities to schools) and classrooms (e.g., creating culturally relevant resources) after participating in professional development sessions in TESOL pedagogies. For example, the literacy coach in the study, Bonnie, created culturally relevant resources for her Chinese students who were allowed to write their biographies in both Mandarin and English to increase their metalinguistic awareness and deepen their understanding of the languages. In an EFL context, Liu et al. (2020) documented changes in a university teacher’s perceptions and practices of TL pedagogies in an English for Academic Purpose (EAP) class through teacher-researcher collaboration in China. The early phase of collaboration revealed that the teacher perceived TL as mostly spontaneous, as it was used for translating key terms or elaborating essential content. As she became more aware of the different functions of TL, the teacher allowed students to use Chinese in their reading and writing before writing up the final product in English and added Chinese annotations in PowerPoint slides to increase students’ metalinguistic awareness and provoke student thinking. These changes suggest that when teachers’ understanding of TL is sophisticated, different strategies of TL are more likely to be utilized to facilitate students’ learning.
TL in K-12 and Higher Education Contexts. Nine studies were conducted in higher education contexts (Carroll & Morales, 2016; Caruso, 2018; Fang & Liu, 2020; Galante, 2020; Hurst & Mona, 2017; Liu et al., 2020; Moore, 2017; Zhang & Chan, 2020; Zuo & Walsh, 2021), and the rest 11 studies were researched in K-12 contexts (Allard, 2017; Back, 2020; Daniel et al., 2019; De Los Reyes, 2019; Ollerhead, 2019; Ortega, 2019; Portolés & Martí, 2017; Rabbidge, 2019; Vaish, 2019a; Van Viegen, 2020; Yuvayapan, 2019). In studies conducted in higher education context, students’ diverse languages were used as resources to engage in multilingual written and oral communication (e.g., Carroll & Morales, 2017; Caruso, 2018) and to empower those who were disempowered by English monolingualism (e.g., Hurst & Mona, 2017). For example, Carroll and Morales’ (2016) study investigated a college ESL class in Puerto Rico where both Spanish and English were the official languages of the country. Positioning students’ linguistic repertoires and cultural knowledge as resources, the instructor of the class chose culturally relevant reading texts to engage students in class discussions. To check students’ reading comprehension, teachers allowed students to freely use Spanish and English in their group discussions and written reflection.
In another study, Caruso (2018) investigated a multilingual classroom in Portugal. The classroom was composed of local Portuguese students and Erasmus students from France and Italy; all the students were fluent in Portuguese and English to at least an intermediate level and studied at least two foreign languages. Therefore, the languages present in class included English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Both the students and the professor of the class utilized the languages freely in oral and written communication. It was reported that students’ use of full linguistic repertoires was encouraged in different practices, such as course discussions, metalinguistic reflection, and note-taking. Some of the TL practices were initiated by students, and others were requested by the professor who encouraged students “to use translanguaging in a more structured and conscious manner” (p. 72). Through the use of TL pedagogies, the flexible use of multiple languages in the class created a space for co-constructing knowledge and challenging unequal power relationship among different languages. However, in another multilingual context, Galante (2020) reported that the lack of students who could speak additional languages in class limited the students’ utilization of their full linguistic repertoire. The study was situated in an EAP class where international students from all over the world gathered in a Canadian university. Although different nationalities were represented in class (e.g., China, Ecuador, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, and Turkey), the majority of the students were from China, and the dominant languages used in the context were Chinese and English. Even though the instructors allowed the students to use technology (e.g., cell phones) to access information in different languages, only Chinese students could translanguage between Chinese and English due to having shared languages.
Based upon the descriptions in the studies, a variety of K-12 contexts have been identified: kindergarten (Portolés & Martí, 2017), elementary schools (Back, 2020; Daniel et al., 2019; De Los Reyes, 2019; Rabbidge, 2019; Vaish, 2019a), secondary schools (e.g., Van Viegen, 2020), and high schools (e.g., Allard, 2017; Ortega, 2019). We found more research in elementary and high schools than in other K-12 contexts. Generally speaking, teachers intended to use TL to improve students’ participation in classroom activities, to promote equal access and generation of knowledge (e.g., Allard, 2019; Ortega, 2019; Rabbidge, 2019), and to manage student behavior (e.g., De Los Reyes, 2019; Rabbidge, 2019).
For example, Allard’s (2019) study, situated in a demographically diverse suburban school district in the USA, investigated two teachers’ TL pedagogies in an ESL reading class and an ESL science class, both at beginning level. The students were immigrants from Mexico and spoke Spanish fluently whereas the teachers had limited proficiency in Spanish. It was reported that the teachers translanguaged in their lectures to explain texts written in English or translate certain English words to their counterparts in Spanish. The teachers also allowed Spanish-language answers from students so that they could check students’ mastery of knowledge. In doing this, not only did the teachers create engaging classes, but also they acknowledged students’ existing linguistic abilities in their mother tongue. Even though their flexible language use was successfully implemented in class as reported by the study, some students in the interviews revealed their dissatisfaction toward their access to English in class.
Ortega (2019) presented a TL practice through which the teacher supported students to use their L1, Spanish, for meaning-making and English learning. In other words, the use of Spanish was to remove barriers to learning and provide opportunities to engage students in discussing social-justice themes, which would not be possible if English was the only language allowed in discussions and written activities. Specifically, by drawing upon students’ cultural knowledge and their Spanish-language repertoire which includes different variations of Spanish, the teacher allowed students to use their linguistic repertoires in discussing problematic situations in school and potential solutions. The teacher wrote English concepts on the board and translated those into Spanish or helped students translate their writing product into English. Students reported they learned more English and “felt more empowered and motivated to learn more English” (p. 162).
In Rabbidge’s (2019) study, although TL seemed to improve student participation in class and facilitate class management, “translanguaging within the IRF [Initiation-Response-Feedback] sequences may have limited student participation to responding to the teachers’ initiations” (p. 1311). Rabbidge’s (2019) study was conducted in different elementary schools in South Korea, and three Korean English teachers’ classroom practices were reported as three cases. The three teachers used Korean to discipline their students, explain difficult concepts, or teach linguistic aspects of English. Particularly, they used Korean to ensure that students understood the requirements for activity participation. When there was no student response in class, the teachers would translanguage to help students understand class content and involve students in knowledge construction. However, the IRF routines, perceived as a type of teacher-directed participation, controlled students’ responses, and Korean was mostly welcomed in class when it was prompted, revealing the need to analyze whether students were granted equal access to their full linguistic repertoire rather than just teachers in the implementation of TL.
RQ2: What are the identified benefits and challenges in the implementation of TL in TESOL?
In this section, the benefits and challenges are synthesized more systematically. As identified, the benefits outweighed the challenges in the selected articles. The reported benefits include supporting students’ learning English, validating students’ linguistic and cultural repertoires as resources, offering students greater access to curricular content, and promoting an inclusive learning environment. First, TL created a space in which students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge was acknowledged and valued as resources for learning (Caruso, 2018; Daniel et al., 2019; Hurst & Mona, 2017; Ortega, 2019). This supported students to understand and learn languages (Carroll & Morales, 2016), develop their individual linguistic repertoire (Caruso, 2018), and learn about their cultures (Ortega, 2019). Such support was especially helpful for very young learners to use their linguistic repertoire to make meaning (Portolés & Martí, 2017). In a TL classroom, language was used as a “mediating tool” in learning additional languages (De Los Reyes, 2019). Its scaffolding role was also noticeable (Carroll & Morales, 2016; Ortega, 2019). TL aided students’ comprehension and language development (Back, 2020), kept students connected to the topics in English learning (De Los Reyes, 2019), facilitated a more nuanced experience of literacy (Ollerhead, 2019), helped students make sense of idioms (Galante, 2020), and supported students’ development of bilingual literacy (Fang & Liu, 2020). Moreover, TL increased students’ metalinguistic awareness (Caruso, 2018; Ollerhead, 2019).
By creating a space that taps into students’ linguistic and cultural repertoires, TL also provided greater access to curricular content. According to the findings in the articles, students understood better the contents (Rabbidge, 2019), went “much further academically” (Back, 2020, p. 913), drew on their prior knowledge in learning new content materials (Allard, 2017), and showed their understanding (Caruso, 2018; De Los Reyes, 2019; Portolés & Martí, 2017). Furthermore, TL not only connected students’ prior knowledge to academic content (Allard, 2017; Back, 2020) but also created opportunities for students to discuss the course reading and demonstrate their reading comprehension regardless of language proficiency (Carroll & Morales, 2016). Overall, TL provided meaningful learning experiences (Allard, 2017; Carroll & Morales, 2016) of both the content materials and languages (Portolés & Martí, 2017).
Another noticeable benefit was that TL increased students’ participation and facilitated communication. Numerous articles indicate that TL has increased and facilitated students’ participation (Carroll & Morales, 2016; De Los Reyes, 2019; Rabbidge, 2019). Because TL is natural for multilinguals, it was also found helpful for students’ communication in class with the teacher and among themselves (Allard, 2017; Daniel et al., 2019), which is especially important with newly arrived students (Allard, 2017). Students felt free to express (Caruso, 2018; De Los Reyes, 2019), avoided misunderstandings (Caruso, 2018), were able to provide “more substantive” responses (De Los Reyes, 2019, p. 309), and conveyed more meaning (De Los Reyes, 2019; Ortega, 2019). Additionally, TL facilitated activities, helped students to be engaged, and kept students on track (De Los Reyes, 2019).
Several related benefits were also recognized from teachers’ perspectives. For teachers in their content instruction, TL was used to illustrate complex concepts (Fang & Liu, 2020), facilitated clarification of contents (Allard, 2017), and provided better insight into students’ comprehension (Carroll & Morales, 2016). Because TL facilitated communication, class activities were more time efficient (De Los Reyes, 2019; Portolés & Martí, 2017) with less miscommunication (Moore, 2017), thus enabling classes to proceed more smoothly (Allard, 2017). TL pedagogy also strengthened the instruction (Fang & Liu, 2020) and promoted efficiency in classroom management (De Los Reyes, 2019). TL served as a mediating tool not only between students and teachers, teachers and the tasks, and the students and the tasks but also among the students (De Los Reyes, 2019).
Hence, TL created a space for students’ languages, cultures, and interests by incorporating students’ cultures into learning (Back, 2020) and built class rapport (Fang & Liu, 2020). TL enhanced students’ collaboration (Caruso, 2018) by relating to the experience of TL (De Los Reyes, 2019) and co-constructing meaning (Portolés & Martí, 2017). In addition to positioning students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge as resources, TL offered socioemotional support (Back, 2020; De Los Reyes, 2019; Rabbidge, 2019). For students, TL increased confidence (Fang & Liu, 2020; Ortega, 2019) and motivation (Ortega, 2019) to learn English. Ultimately, the class became more inclusive for all students (Caruso, 2018; Portolés & Martí, 2017). Such an inclusive learning environment also resulted in an equitable classroom, a space that promotes social justice (Caruso, 2018). An inclusive and equitable classroom gave students agency in their language choice and validated their linguistic knowledge and abilities (Allard, 2017).
However, challenges were also observed including misalignment between students’ language attitudes and their actual language use in class, along with several issues with logistics of implementation. Certain attitudes and ideologies of teachers and the students towards languages, language learning, and TL were identified as challenges in implementing TL pedagogy. First, the attitudes of students and their families towards languages were identified as potential barriers. This included prioritizing English over other languages, having negative attitudes towards the use of other languages in an English class, or adhering to language separation ideology. For instance, some students expressed their concern that the use of two or more languages may result in “confusion and incomprehension” (Caruso, 2018, p. 86) or reflect low English proficiency (Fang & Liu, 2020). The participating students and their families in the study by Allard (2017) prioritized English learning over other goals. The students also tapped into the prevalent ideology about language learning, that is, strict language separation. The students explained that their slow development of English was due to TL practices and asserted that they learn English the best from teachers who spoke only English, undermining the power of their teachers’ TL and reflecting the adherence to language separation. Furthermore, several studies indicated the negative attitudes towards TL as another challenge, and this was observed in some teachers and students.
In addition to the studies that revealed students’ attitudes, teachers’ attitudes and the school contexts were also examined. The participating teacher in Liu et al. (2020) expressed negative attitudes towards “too much” TL and hesitation to use TL strategies in students’ writing. Along with the teachers’ attitudes, school environment and policies were also identified as potential challenges in implementing TL. Allard (2017) situated the students’ concerns within the ecology of the school system and educational environment. In response to the students’ frustration towards slow progress in English, Allard (2017) points out that the teachers’ TL practices were isolated and were not bolstered by the school, because support for bilingualism was not observed at the school beyond the ESL program. In other words, school-level policies limited the power of teachers’ TL practices and perpetuated monoglossic language ideologies.
Another noted challenge was the ineffective implementation of TL, issues related to the logistics in the implementation and misalignment in teachers’ philosophy and practice. Ribbidge (2019) underscores that teachers’ lack of knowledge (e.g., TL theory and different TL strategies) can affect their “best teaching intentions” (p. 1318). Teachers reported their belief that TL enabled them to effectively control students’ participation, but the actual analysis of the classroom revealed that it may be due to the strict IRF structures (Rabbidge, 2019). Similarly, Allard (2017) states that the TL practices of the participating teachers were not anchored in dynamic bilingualism or other theories that empower emergent bilinguals. Moreover, Hurts and Mona (2017) pinpoint that English was more exclusively used for concepts; thus, the multilingual use of languages waned as the course progressed. An issue with regard to the logistics of implementation was, according to one participating teacher, that TL took the time for curriculum (Galante, 2020). Teachers reported that TL tasks had pedagogical benefits, but they also ensured that students had exposure to English during academic conversations and tasks (Galante, 2020).
Additional challenges in implementing TL were also identified. First, teachers reported a challenge in relation to assessments in an EAP program. In the study by Galante (2020), students were required to pass all assessments that are mandated in English to successfully complete the EAP program. Thus, it created a misalignment between classroom practices that support students’ full linguistic repertoire and the assessment that is conducted only in English (Galante, 2020). Students also reported challenges related to the contradiction between assessments and TL pedagogy, specifically referring to spontaneous TL (Galante, 2020). Furthermore, in the study by Allard (2017), teachers’ heavy workload hindered the development of strong relationships between students and the teachers through TL. Students’ actual use of TL was another challenge. Hurts and Mona (2017) indicate that only a few students submitted essays for the assignments that integrated TL strategies, and in fact, TL was “minimal” (p. 143). Languages shared among students were also identified as another possible challenge. For instance, Galante (2020) pinpoints that the presence of two predominant languages (Chinese and English) in the classroom and a lack of students of additional languages limited the students’ use of the entire repertoire. Lastly, classroom interaction structure may hinder students’ participation. Rabbidge (2019) asserts that teachers relied heavily on IRF routines, thus limiting students’ initiation and spaces for students to use their full linguistic repertoires.
RQ3: What are the identified future directions?
Future directions for research identified in the studies include effectiveness of TL pedagogy, expansion of research on pedagogical TL, larger sample size and different methodologies, professional development and training for educators, inclusion of students’ parents to research, microlevel language policies, and research topics that are relevant to specific teaching contexts. First of all, in regard to the effectiveness of TL, Fang and Liu (2020) propose that further studies examine the pedagogical strategies to develop guidance for implementation, thus possibly eliminating teachers’ concerns. Future studies should also unpack the misalignment in practice and teaching philosophy. Another area that requires further attention within the topic of effectiveness of TL is the dominance of English. Hurst and Mona (2017) indicate that, even though TL pedagogy was implemented, English was the language choice for academic concepts, theories, and assessments; hence, the “achievement of a true translanguaging pedagogy” (p. 145) still requires further attention. Interactional structure of classroom discourse also cannot be overlooked when examining the effectiveness. In the study conducted by Rabbidge (2019), the participating teachers implemented TL to increase students’ participation but resulted mostly in IRF routines in their classroom interaction with students. Thus, future studies should also take a sociological approach to examine the linguistic effects of TL, including actual use of linguistic repertoire (Rabbidge, 2019).
Several studies also suggest related topics for research to expand the research on TL pedagogy. With the increase of technology use, online teaching and learning strategies for distant learners, along with online resources and class materials, need to be developed. Moreover, research on pedagogical TL in multilingual classrooms should also examine the role of different resources in relation to effectiveness of the pedagogy. Such resources include printed materials in different languages and speakers (e.g., family, community members) of students’ shared languages (Galante, 2020). Additionally, based upon their study with tutors, Hurst and Mona (2017) propose the role of language in tutor choice. Along with the role of languages, the importance of analyzing academic discourse was also brought to attention. Rabbidge (2019) suggests more research on the extent to which academic registers affect TL and students’ participation.
A future direction for research related to classroom practices is policies in classrooms. Carroll and Morales (2016) assert a need to document and analyze “flexible microlevel language policies” (p. 256) in ESL classrooms. Future research should also go beyond classrooms and examine ways to collaborate with students’ parents and family members. Back (2020) calls for research on how parents of emergent multilingual language learners can be invited into students’ learning. On a related note is research on parents’ attitudes towards TL. Fang and Liu (2020) underscore that students’ parents also are part of students’ language learning and, thus, the parents’ attitudes should be examined, specifically from the folk linguistics perspective. Another direction for more research is on the effectiveness of professional development for in-service teachers and teacher education programs. Back (2020) calls for continued effort in examining the effect of training in TL and other pedagogical strategies in TESOL. These trainings on beliefs and practices should not be exclusive to TESOL educators, but rather, include other mainstream teachers and staff who serve English learners (Back, 2020).
The need for larger sample sizes and different methodologies was also acknowledged in the selected articles. To examine whether the findings from the existing literature remain true, future studies with a larger number of participants across diverse disciplines and teaching contexts should be conducted (Caruso, 2018; Rabbidge, 2019). In addition to larger samples, different methodologies were also suggested. Ortega (2019) proposes collaborative action research and youth participatory action research as methodologies that can invite teachers and students in (re)discovery of languages and cultures. In proposing such methodologies, Ortega (2019) specifically situates the suggested directions within the sociopolitical context of Columbia. In addition to proposing the implementation of different methodologies, Ortega (2019) also states other future directions for research within the Colombian context. One additional direction for research is the exploration of the relationship among Spanish, EFL, and other Indigenous languages in learning additional languages (Ortega, 2019). Furthermore, Ortega (2019) proposes future research on the relation between social justice and peace education in EFL. Based upon the identified future directions for research and the remaining questions from this systematic review, we suggest additional recommendations in the following section.
Findings from the systematic review of the selected articles reveal that TL pedagogy has been implemented in diverse teaching contexts around the world and across a wide range of grade levels. Our analysis of the selected articles demonstrates that TL pedagogies in ESL context is partially used to promote educational equity, whereas in EFL context, its purposes mainly include comprehension check, concept explanation, instruction reinforcement, and creation of class rapport. In addition, the studies also indicate that in higher education, TL pedagogies focused on empowering students in multilingual written and oral communication, and in K-12 contexts, TL pedagogies were used for promoting equal access to knowledge and disciplining student behavior. Moreover, several benefits and challenges, along with future directions for research, were identified in the articles. TL pedagogies created an inclusive learning environment, facilitated English learning, and increased students’ participation. However, challenges were also observed such as logistical issues in implementing the strategies and misalignment between language use and attitudes. Lastly, studies call for further research on related topics such as effectiveness of the TL pedagogy through different methodologies.
Meaningful and productive integration of TL pedagogies in TESOL contexts is possible when different pedagogical strategies are intentionally implemented in daily classroom practices (García et al., 2017). Our review of the selected articles indicate that various strategies were used with translation strategies being the most predominant one (e.g., Vaish, 2019a) especially with students who have low English proficiency (e.g., Fang & Liu, 2020; Zuo & Walsh, 2021). It is important to note that translanguaging pedagogies are applicable to all students regardless of their language proficiency, and restricting the strategies only to those with limited English proficiency results in a limited understanding and application of TL pedagogy. Additionally, the use of translation strategies requires further attention, that is, an in-depth analysis of how translation and TL are conceptualized and implemented by the participating teachers. When implementing translation strategies, teachers should also examine for what purposes (e.g., facilitate communication) and learning goals (e.g., vocabulary, pronunciation, or forms) those strategies serve in order to efficiently integrate such a strategy and address any logistical challenges (e.g., increased time dedicated to translation). Moreover, García et al. (2019), in their chapter on translations and TL, argue that “TL rests on a different epistemology than that of translation” (p. 81). TL pedagogy goes beyond translation, as it transcends language boundaries (García & Li Wei, 2014). In our analysis of the teaching strategies in both ESL and EFL contexts, findings reveal that teachers’ sufficient training on TL resulted in deeper understanding of the pedagogy; their attitudes towards TL became more positive, and their implementation became more efficient (e.g., Back, 2020). On the other hand, the teachers’ lack of familiarity with TL deterred them from fully implementing the pedagogy in class (Galante, 2020). Therefore, teacher education and PD on TL can provide teachers a deeper understanding and tools to implement TL in their classrooms.
Our findings also suggest that an in-depth analysis of TL pedagogies needs to go beyond practices and strategies to the attitudes of the individuals (e.g., teacher’s stances of and towards TL, language attitude of each student) and, at a larger level, language ideologies of different educational contexts (e.g., classroom, school, and the school district). Teachers’ implementation of TL is not enough to result in meaningful and productive TL, for students’ perceptions toward TL contribute to the success or failure of the implementation of TL in classrooms. Teachers should also explicitly guide students to recognize and draw upon the linguistic and cultural repertoires that they bring into the classroom. This means that teachers should foreground their TL stance, which is a belief that students’ language practices are their right and a resource for learning, not a deficit (García et al., 2017). Additionally, teachers should explain to the students the purpose of TL and theories on language learning. Numerous student participants from the selected studies (e.g., Allard, 2017; Liu et al., 2020) demonstrate relatively negative attitudes towards TL or reflected language ideologies of linguistic purism, monoglossic ideology, language as a “problem” (Ruiz, 1984), and/or language separation. This pattern among students was more salient in higher education contexts (e.g., Caruso, 2018; Liu et al., 2020). Moreover, the implementation of TL pedagogy is also affected by contextual constraints (e.g., language policy in school, curriculum). Some potential ways to address the issue are teachers’ explanation of language learning theories (to debunk “myths” about language learning) for students and creating a TL space through intentional design and shift (García et al., 2017) to not only recognize language as “resource” (Ruíz, 1984) but also transcend the language practices that have been traditionally valued in their schools and/or ESL/EFL programs. Teachers should purposely design lesson plans, instructions, and assessments that “integrate home and school language and cultural practices” (García et al., 2017, p. 28). Lastly, in addition to the designs, teachers should make translanguaging shifts, which refer to “the many moment-by-moment decisions that teachers make in the classroom” to support the students (García et al., 2017, p. 28).
In addition to the classroom strategies and language attitudes, cultural repertoires and resources should also be given greater attention. Several selected articles placed more emphasis on the linguistic repertoire; however, relatively less attention was given to cultural repertoires that students bring to the classrooms and how the cultural knowledge can be used as resources for learning. To contextualize the purpose of English learning, students and teachers should go beyond language learning that draws upon the full linguistic repertoires and tap into students’ cultural resources and their funds of knowledge (Moll et al., 2009) by positioning students as experts and acknowledging their agency. In ESL and EFL contexts, English learning should be contextualized as an approach to make more students understand their culture, for example, by welcoming students’ cultural backgrounds to the class discussion.
Ultimately, to create a TL classroom (García et al., 2017), teachers and students should collaborate through dynamic and discursive exchanges (Gort & Sembiante, 2015) rather than the teachers being the only experts of the TL pedagogies. TL space (Li Wei, 2011) can only be created through collaboration among students and teachers. For instance, in Rabbidge (2019), teachers’ linguistic repertoire was used in class, but the students’ use was limited to the strict IRF structure. TL, however, should go beyond strict instructional structures and be used by all individuals in the classroom. As the selected articles demonstrate, student population has become increasingly diverse, and specifically within the field of TESOL, a remaining question related to the implementation of TL pedagogies is when teachers have limited proficiency in their students’ home languages. It is evident that not all ESL/EFL teachers can understand and speak all the languages spoken by the students, especially if students represent a wide range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Rather than always relying on teachers as experts when implementing TL pedagogy, the dynamic exchanges between students and teachers—and the creative co-construction of meaning—should be promoted in diverse classroom contexts.
Following the bi/multilingual turn in the field of SLA (Ortega, 2013), TL pedagogies have the potential to address the issues of social justice and educational equity in TESOL. Criticality, which is one of the key concepts of TL (García & Li Wei, 2014), calls for critical reflection and promotes educational equity. Language use and practice in sociopolitical contexts should be examined in order to meaningfully integrate TL in TESOL contexts. For example, the use of TL pedagogies in ESL class contributed to fostering equitable learning environments, but this purpose was not much salient yet in the studies conducted in EFL contexts. Taking a step further, what is missing in many articles is the attention to social justice as their focus appears to be limited to the use of languages. A critical examination, which is the core of TL pedagogies, has potential to transgress the language ideologies of language separation, and thus, invite teachers and students to critically examine their assumptions on the English language and language learning, in addition to how languages are positioned locally and globally.
Future Directions for Teaching and Research
We end this review by providing implications for teacher education and professional development, along with the future directions for research. For a meaningful integration of TL, we call for more teacher education for preservice teachers, PD on TL for in-service teachers and teacher educators to transform teacher roles, and teacher training on TL in TESOL. Teacher education and PD sessions should also include recommendations on how to guide the students to reflect on and critically examine their beliefs on languages and language learning. In addition to further expanding the teachers’ knowledge of TL, we believe that it is important for students to be introduced to this concept, because according to the articles, some students appear to have negative language attitudes—oftentimes reflecting the language ideologies of their social context—and “myths” on language learning and TL. The success of the TL pedagogy implementation will rely on students’ buy-in of bi/multilingual realities. Teacher education and teacher PD should, therefore, provide tools for teachers to introduce these concepts to students rather than simply implementing TL strategies in their classroom.
In terms of future directions for research, more studies are needed to examine how teachers implement TL pedagogies when students are from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Teachers can examine their practice through diverse research methodologies (e.g., self-study) and research methods (e.g., reflection journals). To have an in-depth understanding of implementing TL pedagogy in TESOL contexts, the following three possible facets can be examined: (1) teachers’ roles in implementing TL pedagogies to fully utilize students’ linguistic and cultural repertoire in class, (2) students’ roles in this process, and (3) strategies and tools that teachers can utilize to facilitate TL pedagogies in superdiverse classroom contexts. Additional direction for research is a longitudinal study that examines a change of attitudes of students and teachers on TL (e.g., engagement in terms of the use of languages) over time (e.g., beginning of the semester to the end of the semester or even over a longer duration). Furthermore, future research can uncover why translation was a commonly observed strategy by teachers in diverse educational contexts and whether it was the dominant or the first strategy implemented by teachers when they start to integrate TL pedagogy in their teaching. Lastly, more research is needed on the effectiveness of different strategies used by teachers in their respective teaching contexts. Future research in these areas will not only further enrich the teacher education and PD sessions for in-service teachers but also expand the current research on TL pedagogies in TESOL contexts.
About the Authors
Grace Jue Yeon Kim is an Assistant Professor of Education at Bucknell University, specializing in Language, Literacy, and Culture in Multilingual Settings. Her research examines translanguaging pedagogies for biliteracy, classroom discourse and peer interaction among bi/multilingual students, and language teacher agency of teachers serving linguistically and culturally diverse students. ORCID: 0000-0003-0603-2081
Zhenjie Weng is a Ph.D. candidate, majoring in Foreign, Second, and Multilingual Language Education, at The Ohio State University. She is also an ESL instructor, teaching writing to both undergraduate and graduate level international students in the USA. Her research focuses on second language writing, language teacher education, translanguaging, culturally responsive pedagogy, and technology use in educating EFL/ESL students. ORCID: 0000-0002-2639-7822
To Cite this Article
Kim, J.Y.K. & Weng, Z. (2022). A systematic review on pedagogical translanguaging in TESOL. Teaching English as a Second Language Electronic Journal (TESL-EJ), 26(3). https://doi.org/10.55593/ej.26103a4
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