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

Leketi Makalela


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.  


African multilingualism; epistemic access; reading comprehension; ubuntu translanguaging

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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