Translanguaging as an act of emancipation: Rethinking assessment tools in multilingual pedagogy in South Africa

Vimbai Mbirimi-Hungwe


A plethora of research concerned with translanguaging pedagogy exists. The available research shows a considerable effort by researchers at the tertiary level in South Africa. However, the question about which language should be used for assessment, especially at university, has been a matter of concern among many lecturers.

Using a group of first-year medical students, a study was conducted to find out if proficiency in the English language is required as a measure of success in content-related material. Statistical analysis of a control group and an intervention group showed a significant difference in the performance of the students after the assessment of a task. The intervention group, that had been given the opportunity to discuss the main ideas of a text and write a summary based on the text, performed better than their counterparts in the control group. However, it should be noted that during the assessment, the English language grammatical rules were not the priority; instead, emphasis was placed on students’ ability to identify and use the main ideas in the summary.

The results prompts this researcher to conclude that students are emancipated from the bounds of proficiency in the English language through the use of a translanguaging pedagogy when assessed on their display of content knowledge instead. For this reason, the researcher urges all academics to compile  assessments that focus on content knowledge and allow students to use translanguaging to understand and make meaning of content material.


Translanguaging pedagogy, Assessments, English language, Multilingualism

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