Translanguaging has experienced a resurgence of interest and it has captured the attention of educators and theoreticians alike. The concept of translanguaging was originally proposed by Williams in 1994 and has been revitalized recently by Garcia and her colleagues based on her work in New York City (Garcia et al., 2021). Although originally focused on the use of two languages in bilingual classrooms in Wales, interest in the concept has recently expanded to include theoretical notions of how the languages of bilinguals are represented neuro-cognitively. Educationally-speaking, recent enthusiasm for the concept has resulted in it being seen by some as a general approach to educating students in linguistically-diverse schools. In this presentation, I will briefly review some of my own research against recent theoretical arguments that named languages do not exist neuro-cognitively speaking and propose a framework for thinking about how it might be used in the classroom. I argue that while the concept of translanguaging is potentially very useful, in order for it to enhance student learning, it is important to understand what it does and does not mean, to identify its socio-cultural limitations, and to tailor use of it according to one’s specific social realities and instructional goals.
Fred Genesee is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Psychology at McGill University, Canada. His primary research interests focus on bilingualism and bilingual first language acquisition in normal and impaired populations. In particular, his research examines the early stages of the acquisition of two languages with the view to (a) better understanding this form of language acquisition and (b) ascertaining the neuro-cognitive limits of the child’s innate ability to acquire language. He is also interested in second language acquisition in school and the modalities for effective acquisition in school contexts.