Why permit language mixing at college?

The way of considering the use of different languages ​​has evolved with scientific advances in the area. Initially, it was about considering plurilingual competences as the ability to use several languages ​​in an overlapping and cumulative way and, therefore, independently. So, this same competence was considered from the angle of a temporary intertwining between two or more languages ​​– “certain transparent words or false friends in French slip when I speak in English”. Finally, more recent work describes a transversal approach to the languages ​​of the repertoire of individuals who transcend the borders between languages.

The fundamentals of “translanguaging” are part of the British, not to say Welsh, school (trawsieithu), with the work of Cen Williams, in the 1980s. At that time, the pedagogical objective was to promote, at school, local languages ​​confronted with British English as the language of instruction. For this, the mobilization and promotion of the two languages ​​were legitimized, for the purposes of production and joint perception.

Practices of this type can be identified in other spaces. Thus, in Argentina, reading-comprehension, where learners read a text in a foreign language and produce a synthesis in Spanish, is well institutionalized.

In the 2000s, the American school of “translanguaging”, embodied by Ofelia García, extended this pedagogical principle to an understanding of the transversal cognitive processes of language mastery. In its context, it was a matter of reflecting on the follow-up of Spanish-speaking children in the southern United States of America where American English, as a language of instruction, is a factor in school failure. It is, therefore, about recognizing that individuals do not segment the languages ​​of their repertoire, but that they develop specific transversal social practices according to the contexts of discourse production.

In a pedagogical system, students can read resources in the languages ​​they master, then collaborate multilingually to produce a synthesis in the target and standard language (academic French, for example) and finish with writing a synthetic text in one of their initial languages. This principle goes beyond the simple fact of “mixing” languages ​​like humorous sketches about language learning or English class announcements do.

It should be noted that the term “translingua” has been translated and takes on very different meanings in French-language research, as pointed out by Guillaume Gentil, professor of applied linguistics at the University of Carleton. The principles defined by “translanguage” can also appear in other contemporary and francophone concepts, such as “plurilingual competence” theorized by Coste, Moore and Zarate and included in the Common European Framework of References for Languages ​​(CEFRL).

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