Unbounded Languages – Translanguaging as the New Language

Author Information

Claudia Kunschak,
Ritsumeikan University, Japan

Birgit Strotmann,
Comillas Pontifical University, Spain

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.4-7
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022


With globalization, multilingualism has replaced monolingualism as the prevalent paradigm across the disciplines, from sociolinguistics to linguistic anthropology to applied linguistics to education, be it from the angle of superdiversity (Blommaert and Rampton 2011), metrolingualism (Pennycook and Otsuji 2015) or translanguaging (García and Wei 2014). 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 and Marsh 2010), and creative use of English as a Lingua Franca (Seidlhofer and Widdowson 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 study examines these new language constellations at the example of three multilingual degree programs 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 (Geisler et al. 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 study 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 and 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 subjects quipped.

Keywords: Translingual, transcultural, lingua franca, Spain, higher education, linguistic anthropology


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