Unbounded languages – Translanguaging as the new language

Authors: Claudia Kunschak (Ritsumeikan University, Japan)
Birgit Strotmann (Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain)
Speakers: Claudia Kunschak, Birgit Strotmann
Topic: Applied Sociolinguistics
COMELA 2021 General Session


With globalization, multilingualism has replaced monolingualism as the prevalent paradigm across the disciplines, from sociolinguistics to applied linguistics to education, may it be from the angle of superdiversity (Blommaert & Rampton, 2012), metrolingualism (Pennycook & Otsuji, 2015) or translanguaging (Garcia & Li Wei, 2014). In fact, we are witnessing an era where multilingualism from below, which has always existed, is increasingly supported by multilingualism from above in language policy and planning via plurilingual pluricultural competence (Council of Europe, 2018), innovative language pedagogy such as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) (Coyle, Hood & Marsh, 2010), and creative use of English as a Lingua Franca (Seidlhofer, 2009; Jenkins, 2017). However, it is not just English that serves this purpose, but also French and Arabic in the Mediterranean region and Spanish (Godenzzi, 2006) or Chinese further afield (Li, 2006). The presentation will examine these new language constellations at the example of one bilingual and and one multilingual degree at a small, private university in Spain with a strong international projection, a multilingual student population, and equally multilingual/multicultural faculty. Superimposed on the already multilingual and multivarietal structure of the Spanish peninsula, with its largest foreign cohort speaking Latin-American varieties, the languages and language combinations emerging from this study include students’ home languages, languages of study, lingua francas and creative language practices. It was the purpose of the study to identify affordances and challenges in developing translingual transcultural competence (MLA, 2007), that is, the ability to operate between languages, reflect on the world and self through another language and culture, as well as develop critical language awareness and social sensitivity. Based on a survey conducted among students from fresher to graduating class, interviews and focus groups with students, teachers and administrators, as well as a document analysis of study plans and language requirements, the presentation aims to document emerging language practices and translingual transcultural competence as well as the factors that support or hinder this development. While English and Spanish are clearly the dominant languages, third and fourth languages play a significant role among both students and faculty. It will be argued that translingual dispositions (Lee & Canagarajah, 2019) are widely held and that instead of cultivating a series of discrete linguistic stills, “translanguaging is the language of the future” as one of the participants quipped.

Keywords: translingual, transcultural, lingua franca, Spain, higher education