While this website includes translingual scholarship and pedagogical advice that can be implemented across institutions of higher education, "Translanguaging TCU" is focused on the local context and needs of the Texas Christian University writing community. Translanguaging is happening across the globe, but to translangauge an individual institution, it is important to take a local approach.
I encourage others to translanguage their own universities and classrooms in ways that are meaningful and beneficial to them. This website is simply one approach. Below, I list some of the lessons I've learned in creating this website in the hopes that it will help others continue this work.
When I started this project, I was new to TCU and needed to learn from existing writing instructors about their experiences with translingual students and knowledge of translingual theory. In order to do this, I created an anonymous survey (see survey questions and results) for all composition faculty. The survey helped confirm that TCU has a translingual student body (several people previously told me TCU had no language difference), that instructors had little to no training in ESL, ELL, or translingual pedagogy, and that at least some instructors were already taking or were open to a translingual approach. Based on this information, I crafted my argument for translanguaging TCU and developed teaching materials to help jumpstart the process.
Still, a translingual approach to language difference is met with resistance or misunderstanding. As my conversations with writing instructors continue in classes and other informal gatherings, it is clear that language difference is viewed as a deficit by many and that Standard Edited American English and Western approaches to argument are viewed as the best (and sometimes only) way to teach.
This leads me to my second realization.
Threshold concepts, like translingualism, are becoming increasingly central to composition pedagogy. Linda Adler-Kassner writes that threshold concepts, originally defined by J. F. Meyer and Ray Land, are "concepts for full and immersive participation in a discipline. They are transformative, changing the ways that individuals understand and see; they are also often troublesome, butting up against inert, alien, or otherwise problematic knowledge" (from "What Are Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies and Why Do They Matter?"). In my on-going conversations with other writing instructors and personal reflections, a translingual approach to language difference is a concept that transforms an individuals' understanding of language and approach to writing.
Because a translingual approach functions like a threshold concept, adopting a translingual approach is transformative, irreversible, integrative, and discursive (read more about the features of threshold concepts here). However, passing over the threshold is difficult and can be troublesome because a translingual approach directly challenges widely held assumptions about language use and the teaching of writing. Therefore, translingual scholars need to be attentive to the most effective way of introducing and arguing for a translingual approach.
I've taught from a translingual orientation toward language and composition (sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit) at three different institutions in two different regions of the United States. As with any type of pedagogy, I have to modify my translingual teaching for the needs of the different student bodies. For instance, at Emerson College, a progressive, private liberal arts institution in the heart of Boston, students were open to discussing the connections between language and power. At Wheelock College, a diverse private institution with non-traditional students, I didn't need to explain that language and power go hand in hand or that people move through different discourses. These students were acutely aware of power and privilege and wanted to learn how to speak to and with power. At TCU, a predominantly white, highly wealthy institution in Texas, just discussing the connection between language and identity is radical.
Just as the definition of "translingual" remains in flux, we can't assume there is a single approach to a translingual classroom or translanguaging a curriculum.
You must engage other departments and offices to understand the context of your institution and writing program
As I was learning about TCU's writing instructors and students, I also reached out to different departments and offices that provided writing instruction (see the interviews here). In doing so, I learned about different approaches to language difference on campus, the circumstances of particular student bodies, and alternative (and sometimes troubling) perceptions of TCU's writing courses. This allowed me to better understand the ecology of writing at TCU and identify possible allies. After all, writing instruction happens beyond the composition classroom and there are many stakeholders for required writing courses.
In my continued conversations with writing instructors, one of the most frequently cited critiques or concerns is the practicality of a translingual approach to course design. Because a translingual approach functions like a threshold concept, but is also meant to be enacted in the classroom, any attempt to translanguage an institution must include both theoretical and pedagogical support. This website is the product of my efforts to include theory and pedagogy.
It seems that the more concrete support (such as writing assignments, in-class activities, textbooks and readings) that you can provide, the more likely instructors are to either add these to their courses or reframe their existing content toward a translingual approach. For instance, in talking with a colleague, she said that she never realized that literacy narratives could be translingual. By providing both a theoretical approach toward literacy narratives as translingual and concrete examples of texts and assignments, I am able to help this instructor see new opportunities in a familiar place.
Want to connect across institutions?
If you are interested in collaborating across institutions, using part of this website at your own institution, or talking more about translanguaging universities and writing programs, please reach out!