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

Keywords: Translanguaging pedagogy, Assessments, English language, Multilingualism


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.

Author Biography

Vimbai Mbirimi-Hungwe is a senior lecturer in the Department of Language Proficiency at the Sefako Makgatho University of Health Sciences in South Africa.Her research focusses on the use of translanguaging, reading comprehension and collaborative learning at university level. Vimbai Mbirimi-Hungwe is convinced that multilingualism is not a learning deficit instead it should be viewed as an abundance of learning skills. Her passion is in using translanguaging to enhance reading comprehension in multilingual students who are not L1 speakers of English. Thus, her research interest emphasises the fluid use of languages for meaning making and deep understanding of reading material.