Jillian Mendoza, Stockton, CA, JillianMendoza@cpm.org
It is the middle of the night, and my phone is buzzing. It is the family group chat, and our family members in Manila are starting their day.
Julie: Dumating na po yung mga pinadala nyo nila Tom and we just want to say maraming salamat po! Unfortunately, I can’t search Tom sa msgr kya paksibi na lang din po sna sa kyna na we really appreciate mga pinadaa nyo po. Ingat po kayo palagi dyan!
Jay Rick: Thank you po Tito Gerardo sa mga binigay nyo po sa amin! Please say thank you rin po to Thomas and Jill! Grateful po kami palagi sa inyong lahat. God bless po 🙂
Gerardo: Very nice po, I am glad the gifts made it to Manila and I’m glad you enjoyed them!
What is Translanguaging?
If you speak multiple languages, then my family group chat exchange may feel familiar. For those who are unfamiliar, translanguaging encompasses the language practices of multilingual people. While “code-switching” implies an on/off switch (Celic & Seltzer, 2013), “translanguaging” recognizes the fluidity of speaking, thinking, writing, and listening without conscious regard for the named languages. According to Celic & Seltzer, “translanguaging takes as its starting point the language practices of bilingual people as the norm, and not the language of monolinguals, as described by traditional usage books and grammars” (p. 1).
Translanguaging in mathematics classrooms
Supporting translanguaging in mathematics is a key lever in educators’ work toward equitable and culturally sustaining classrooms. Aguirre & Zavala (2012) state that “culturally responsive mathematics teachers leverage mathematical learning by expanding children’s mathematical thinking, building bridges between previous knowledge and new knowledge, supporting bilingualism and academic language development, fostering connections with cultural funds of knowledge and experiences” (p.168). Gutiérrez (2007) foregrounds the importance of recognizing the assets of students’ language practices as an aspect of their identity. In order to promote mathematics as a cultural practice, there must be space for students to access and utilize their full language repertoire in the classroom. Furthermore, Gutiérrez states that it is harmful when students have to downplay aspects of their cultural, personal, and linguistic capacities in order to participate in mathematics (p. 3). As mathematics educators, we must encourage students to bring their whole selves, and their whole language repertoire in particular, into our classrooms.
Translanguaging also supports an asset-based approach to teaching multilingual learners. Maldonado Rodriguez et. al. (2020) share that “a translanguaging stance in a mathematics classroom means designing a space in which the teacher views and understands the complexity of multilingual students’ language practices, recognizing that they are a powerful resource to draw upon and connect to mathematical learning” (p.17). States across the U.S. also recognize the need to support multilingualism in mathematics.
Where to start?
The practice of translanguaging helps make content accessible to multilingual learners and strengthens students’ understanding of the underlying content. According to Celic & Seltzer (2013),
Translanguaging as a pedagogical strategy offers more direct ways to teach rigorous content, at the same time that academic uses of language are developed. By using collaborative group work and multilingual partners, translanguaging extends and deepens the thinking of students. The expansion of available multilingual resources for teaching opens up worlds, experiences, and possibilities. And the ability to read and write multilingual texts enables students to gain different perspectives. Translanguaging simply has the potential to expand thinking and understanding. (p. 2)
If you have had limited opportunities to reflect on your own translanguaging practices, it may feel daunting to get started with new classroom practices. There are small tweaks and changes you can make to your classroom structures and routines to support more translanguaging in your classroom. Some suggested starting points for developing translanguaging in your class, adapted from CPM’s new middle school curriculum, Inspiring Connections, and from Translanguaging: A CUNYNSIEB Guide for Educators are included on the following page.
With all the above suggestions, it is important to invite multilingual students to contribute to the ways their language is used and highlighted in the classroom to the extent they are comfortable. Multilingual students may belong to one or more marginalized group, so getting to know their comfort with and preferences for sharing their language experiences is central to ensuring students feel supported and as though they belong in mathematics classrooms. Furthermore, these practices support teachers and students to share authority in the classroom by encouraging teachers to learn from their students and more fully draw on students’ multiple funds of knowledge.
Questions to Consider
How do you greet your students, and how do they greet one another?
Encourage students to use greetings from their family’s heritage.
How do you use gestures and/or verbal signals to communicate transitions within a lesson?
Incorporate multilingual transitions. Showing a genuine interest in your students’ language repertoire signals to your students that all language is valuable.
Additionally, learn which of your common gestures, such as the ‘thumbs up’, are considered vulgar nonverbal signals outside of your culture.
Do you have names for your groups, tables, or stations?
Include labels and names that represent your students’ language repertoire.
Multilingual Word Walls
How do you support literacy development? Do you support literacy through an English-only or English-first lens?
Incorporate multilingual words on the class word wall. This could mean all words are displayed in languages familiar to your students because they contribute to the word wall.
Aguirre, J., & del Rosario Zavala, M. (2013).
Making culturally responsive mathematics teaching explicit: A lesson analysis tool. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(2), 163–190.
Celic, C., & Seltzer, K. (2013).
Translanguaging: A CUNYNSIEB Guide For Educators. CUNY-NSIEB. https://www.cuny-nysieb.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Translanguaging-Guide-March-2013.pdf
California Department of Education. (n.d.).
English learner roadmap principles overview. CA Dept of Education. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/rm/principles.asp
Gutiérrez, R. (2007).
Exploring Mathematics Education in Context. University of Nevada, Reno.
Maldonado Rodríguez, L., Krause, G., & Adams-Corral, M. (2020).
Flowing with the translanguaging corriente: Juntos engaging with and making sense of mathematics. Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics: Special Issue on Multilingual Learners, 11(2), 17–23.