Posted by Cheryl Lingjuan Yan （Post #3)
Translanguaging has had a forceful impact on the field of Applied Linguistics. It also has contributed greatly to our understandings of language, bilingualism and education (Garcia & Wei, 2013). Translanguaging is such a powerful method of language teaching, that it has been applied widely into a great number of ESL or FSL classrooms by language teachers. It reminds me of how a second language classroom is like in China. Learning English is mandatory in the Chinese Education system starting from the 3rd grade in elementary school through college. As a Chinese student, I acquired English as a second language since 9 years old. I remember when I was learning English, teachers did the code-switching all the time. Of course he/she would speak English in class in order to make us get more English exposure, but the good part is he/she would switch back to Mandarin as long as we had something hard to understand. English, to many L2 learners in China, represents a better future, more job opportunities and higher living standard. Therefore, people in China really have a strong motivation in learning it. Doubtlessly, it is not only in China, thanks to English’s dominant stance in in almost all facets in our society, such as politics, economy, education, etc. L2 English users continue and will continue to grow, far exceeding the the number of native English speakers.
In contrast, a classroom of an immersion program in Montreal is very different, and the teacher will explain everything in the target language. Some friends, including me, in our class have registered for French courses this semester, most of which are French immersion programs, and mine is not an exception. The teacher explains everything in French only. Therefore, it is really a challenge for non-French speakers to stick to it. Sometimes I failed even to follow my French instructor. The main problem, in my opinion, may be the vocabulary. The immersion program will only be effective when students involved can at least have a basic idea what the whole class is talking about. In that way, they can learn from each other’s ideas, do peer-correct activities, etc. I have a bunch of friends telling me that they think it would be more helpful to have an instructor in their first language or English. Perhaps using an immersion program is an effective method to facilitate students’ language learning to some extent indeed, but as far as I am concerned, all these assumptions are based on one precondition–students involved should have already had a good foundation of vocabulary concerning the target language. Without a solid foundation of that, it is relatively hard to be fully inclusive in a classroom of an immersion program.
From my perspective, whether it’s effective to use code-switching in ESL or FSL classrooms, depends on student’s proficiency of the target language for sure, but also on student’s motivation in learning it. For example, if a student really has a strong motivation to learn a language, despite the fact that his/her language proficiency may not be good enough at first, he/she will spontaneously put a lot of effort into learning it him/herself. In that case, he/she will be able to keep pace with the whole class in almost no time. Students in that case, therefore, are an exception in learning a language. On the contrary, if a student’s language proficiency is not desirable, and he/she does not have a motivation to improve it at all. That would be even harder for him/her to acquire that language. Thus, these students’ failure to learn is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In conclusion, basically, on the one hand, for students with stronger motivation and higher proficiency, it is fine for them to go for an immersion program. But on the other hand, for students whose language proficiency is not good enough and do not really have a strong desire in learning the target language, teachers should be comfortable to use translanguaging during the class. Perhaps it would help to cope with this issue.
García, O., & Wei, L. (2013). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Springer.