Translanguaging as a vehicle for epistemic access: cases for reading comprehension and multilingual interactions

  • Leketi Makalela University of South Africa
Keywords: African multilingualism, epistemic access, reading comprehension, ubuntu translanguaging


African multilingualism has always been construed from a monoglossic (i.e., one language at a time) lens despite the pretensions of plural language policies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study reported in this paper explored the efficacy of alternating languages of input and output in the same lessons in order to offset linguistic fixity that is often experienced in monolingual classrooms. I present two case studies of translanguaging practices, one at an institution of higher learning and another in the intermediate phase (primary school). The results from these cases show that the use of more than one language by multilingual learners in classroom settings provides cognitive and social advantages for them. Using what I refer to as the ubuntu translanguaging model, I make a case that fuzziness and blurring of boundaries between languages in the translanguaging classes are (i) necessary and relevant features of the 21st century to enhance epistemic access for speakers in complex multilingual spaces, and that they are (ii) indexical to the pre-colonial African value system of ubuntu. Useful recommendations for classroom applications and further research are considered at the end of the paper.  

Author Biography

Leketi Makalela, University of South Africa
Leketi Makalela is an associate professor and Head of the Division of Languages, Literacies & Literatures, Wits School of Education, at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He is a National Research Foundation rated researcher on biliteracy development, language policy and planning, multilingualism, and World Englishes. He has published in internationally accredited journals such as World Englishes, Written Communication, and International Journal of Multilingual Research. His latest book publication is Language Teacher Research in Africa.