Crossing Divides: Exploring Translingual Writing Pedagogies and Programs

Crossing Divides: Exploring Translingual Writing Pedagogies and Programs


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Translingualism perceives the boundaries between languages as unstable and permeable; this creates a complex challenge for writing pedagogy. Writers shift actively among rhetorical strategies from multiple languages, sometimes importing lexical or discoursal tropes from one language into another to introduce an effect, solve a problem, or construct an identity. How to accommodate this reality while answering the charge to teach the conventions of one language can be a vexing problem for teachers. Crossing Divides offers diverse perspectives from leading scholars on the design and implementation of translingual writing pedagogies and programs.

The volume is divided into four parts. Part 1 outlines methods of theorizing translinguality in writing and teaching. Part 2 offers three accounts of translingual approaches to the teaching of writing in private and public colleges and universities in China, Korea, and the United States. In Part 3, contributors from four US institutions describe the challenges and strategies involved in designing and implementing a writing curriculum with a translingual approach. Finally, in Part 4, three scholars respond to the case studies and arguments of the preceding chapters and suggest ways in which writing teachers, scholars, and program administrators can develop translingual approaches within their own pedagogical settings.

Illustrated with concrete examples of teachers’ and program directors’ efforts in a variety of settings, as well as nuanced responses to these initiatives from eminent scholars of language difference in writing, Crossing Divides offers groundbreaking insight into translingual writing theory, practice, and reflection.

Contributors: Sara Alvarez, Patricia Bizzell, Suresh Canagarajah, Dylan Dryer, Chris Gallagher, Juan Guerra, Asao B. Inoue, William Lalicker, Thomas Lavelle, Eunjeong Lee, Jerry Lee, Katie Malcolm, Kate Mangelsdorf, Paige Mitchell, Matt Noonan, Shakil Rabbi, Ann Shivers-McNair, Christine M. Tardy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781607326199
Publisher: Utah State University Press
Publication date: 06/01/2017
Edition description: 1
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Bruce Horner is Endowed Chair in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville, where he teaches courses in composition, composition pedagogy and theory, and literacy studies. His work has received the Braddock Award, the Winterowd Award, the CCCC Outstanding Book Award, and many other recognitions.

Laura Tetreault is a doctoral candidate and University Fellow in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville, where she teaches courses in composition and professional writing. She has also served as assistant director of the University Writing Center at the University of Louisville.

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Re(con)figuring Entanglement in a Translingual World

Juan C. Guerra and Ann Shivers-McNair

In the few years since Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur introduced the term translingualism to composition and literacy studies (Horner et al. 2011) — four years after Mary Louise Pratt and the MLA foreign-language committee she chaired published their position on the critical role translingualism and transculturation play in the foreign-language classroom (Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages 2007; Pratt et al. 2008) — scholars in the field have immersed themselves in conversations about what translingual writing is, as well as where it ends and where everything else — ESL, basic, multilingual and mainstream writing — begins (Matsuda 2014). As more voices have joined the conversation, translingualism has evolved from an approach to language difference designed for specific intervention in the lives of disenfranchised students to one intended to address the needs of all student writers (Lu and Horner 2013, 585). Not surprisingly, recent efforts to explicate the concept's core characteristics have led to implicit debates about the kind of vocabulary that best explains the motives of scholars who have embraced the term and all it signifies.

In what follows, we argue that the emergence of translingualism as a new approach to language difference is symptomatic of efforts by transdisciplinary scholars interested in challenging the ideological constraints of monolingualism, an approach that for far too long has colonized the writing classroom, as well as in demonstrating dissatisfaction with efforts by proponents of multilingualism — referred to as the "traditional multilingual model" by Bruce Horner, Samantha NeCamp and Christiane Donahue — to rectify monolingualism's shortcomings (Horner, NeCamp, and Donahue 2011, 287) (for a discussion of the difference between interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity, see Hawhee 2009). Because critiques designed to respond to the vicissitudes ignored by monolingualism and multilingualism require the introduction of a new vocabulary of motive, efforts to establish the legitimacy of a translingual approach have reflected a collective, albeit unorchestrated, search for a figurative language that provides fresh insights and a vocabulary of motive that takes us beyond worn and tired conceptualizations with little generative power.

We begin our effort to describe a vocabulary of motive (we acknowledge ours is provisional, one others will want to refine and modify in situ) by locating translingualism in the context of approaches to language difference. We then review various efforts among scholars in composition and literacy studies to informally identify what C. Wright Mills (1940) refers to as a "vocabulary of motive" and Rosi Braidotti (1994) calls "figurations." We conclude by introducing a generative vocabulary developed by Karen Barad (2007) in her work on material-discursive phenomena to illustrate a critical shift taking place in the field toward the use of a more precise vocabulary that addresses the rhetorical and discursive needs of our students as they tackle the array of conflicts and contradictions language difference produces in their lives.


In light of current conversations in composition and literacy studies about how best to approach language difference, and in keeping with our effort to unpack the vocabularies of motive that have informed them, we begin by first reviewing the three approaches to language difference that have emerged as most salient in the course of various critiques by proponents of translingualism (see table 2.1). Historically, the monolingual approach has maintained hegemonic control in the teaching of first-year writing since its inception at Harvard University in 1885 (Horner and Trimbur 2002, 597). The entailments listed under the first column below emphatically demonstrate its ideological attributes: it is assimilative and grounded in a superficial understanding of language and culture that suggests English monolingualism reflects a national commitment in the United States to a traditional and singular linguistic identity unwilling to acknowledge a role for any other language in public discourse. The ideological trajectory also identifies its commitment to monolingual English as a consequence of the nation's colonial past. Because the United States was founded by an English-speaking people, proponents of monolingualism contend it must maintain that linguistic identity under any circumstances. As a consequence, Bruce Horner and John Trimbur argue, "a tacit language policy of unidirectional English monolingualism has shaped the historical formation of U.S. writing instruction and continues to influence its theory and practice in shadowy, largely unexamined ways" (Horner and Trimbur 2002, 594–95).

Because a monolingual paradigm has been in place for so long, efforts to challenge, much less dismantle, it have faced great odds. In the 1980s and 1990s, for example, the battle cry against monolingualism was taken up by multidisciplinary scholars in the field who formulated a strategy grounded in multilingualism and multiculturalism, a counternarrative that argued that because the United States is a nation of immigrants, the teaching of writing should reflect a respect for the linguistic and cultural practices of multilingual students who at the time were enrolling in increasing numbers in colleges and universities across the country. As the second column in table 2.1 suggests, a multilingual approach to language difference was grounded in the idea that students in writing classes should be encouraged to engage in code switching as they move from one cultural context (the home or community) to another (the academy). Because it is aligned with a liberal commitment to accommodation and encourages both students and teachers to become increasingly aware of how language and culture influence their writing, a multilingual approach substitutes the salad-bowl metaphor for the melting-pot metaphor favored by proponents of monolingualism (Severino, Guerra, and Butler 1998, 1). While the multilingual effort has produced a lot of scholarship we simply do not have space and time to present here, the key arguments put forth by its proponents are well represented in Carol Severino, Juan C. Guerra and Johnnella E. Butler's edited collection Writing in Multicultural Settings (Severino, Guerra, and Butler 1998). Several essays in the collection, for example (as is also true of most scholarship with a traditional multilingual perspective), demonstrate a tendency to fix language, culture, and identity, framing each of them as discrete and nonporous entities proponents of translingualism have found problematic. At the same time, however, a number of essays in the collection resist the tendency to fix language, culture, and identity, among them Esha Niyogi De and Donna Uthus Gregory's "Decolonizing the Classroom: Freshman Composition in a Multicultural Setting," which Stephanie Kerschbaum (2014) praises for its effort to think of student identities as "the embodiment of a complex set of identifications that must be considered together" rather than in terms of "single identifiers" (De and Gregory 1998, 10).

A quick glimpse at the third column in table 2.1 readily demonstrates the affiliation proponents of translingualism have with what in cultural studies and critical theory are considered progressive positions designed to challenge the constraining elements that inform both a monolingual and a multilingual approach to language difference. According to Horner, Lu, Royster and Trimbur (2011)(see also Horner, NeCamp, and Donahue 2011; Lu and Horner 2013), who as we noted earlier introduced the concept of translingualism to the field of composition and literacy studies, a monolingual approach is problematic because it takes as the norm "a linguistically homogeneous situation: one where writers, speakers and readers are expected to use Standard English or Edited American English — imagined ideally as uniform — to the exclusion of other languages and language variations" (Horner, Lu, Royster and Trimbur 2011, 303). Unfortunately, the multilingual approach that emerged to challenge that norm did not go far enough because the multilingual approach assumed "that each codified set of language practices is appropriate only to a specific, discrete, assigned social sphere: 'home' language, 'street' language, 'academic' language, 'business' language, 'written' language, and so on" (306). In Horner, Lu, Royster and Trimbur's view, a translingual approach offers a meaningful alternative because it "(1) [honors] the power of all language users to shape language to specific ends; (2) [recognizes] the linguistic heterogeneity of all users of language both within the United States and globally; and (3) directly [confronts] English monolingualist expectations by researching and teaching how writers can work with and against, not simply within, those expectations" (305). While the recent appearance of the term translingualism gives this approach an air of newness, of something scholars in the field have not considered before, the string of entailments listed under the third column oftable 2.1 suggests that the ideology informing a translingual approach is by no means a new phenomenon but instead reflects a system of dispositions that provides an alternative to the colonial and neocolonial ideologies reflected, respectively, in a monolingual and a multilingual approach.

Although the introduction of a translingual approach has destabilized the binary and the dichotomous relationship implied by the relationship between a monolingual and a multilingual approach, the translingual approach has also raised questions about the extent to which it in turn is establishing a hegemonic presence in composition and literacy studies, especially as it relates to long-standing positions reflected in the work of scholars who have challenged "the myth of linguistic homogeneity" (Matsuda 2006) in basic (through work on the dialect practices of underrepresented minority students) and ESL (through work on the multilingual practices of immigrant students) writing. Part of the problem, as we see it, is the tendency among proponents of translingualism to borrow figurations from allied disciplines that serve its purposes in making a case against both monolingualism and multilingualism. In some respects, the tension between these related but varied perspectives signals a new and unanticipated contestation as proponents of the various approaches work together or against one another to demarcate the role of their respective takes on language difference. In an effort to address some of these tensions, we will examine in the next section a range of neologisms as well as standard terms given new meanings that proponents, allies, and, at times, detractors of translingualism have introduced to identify what we consider an emerging vocabulary of motive that provides a critically grounded and progressive response to language difference.


The vocabulary of motive that has taken root in the work of transdisciplinary scholars involved in forging a new language that critiques the constraints inherent in the vocabularies of motive informing monolingual and multilingual approaches to language difference is certainly not unique to them. Because they are interested in disrupting and destabilizing ideological efforts to fix reality inside discrete borders, transdisciplinary scholars in the broader field of language, culture, and rhetoric have also identified neologisms and given standard terms new meanings. In their effort to develop "a framework for the analysis of identity as constituted in linguistic interaction," for example, Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall approach identity "as a relational and sociocultural phenomenon that emerges and circulates in local discourse contexts of interaction rather than as a stable structure located primarily in the individual psyche or in fixed social categories" (Bucholtz and Hall 2005, 585–86). In so describing identity, they posit five principles — emergence, positionality, indexicality, relationality and partialness — that describe identity as "a discursive construct that emerges in interaction" (587). In her effort to develop a new rhetoric of difference, StephanieKerschbaum (2014) uses similar language in challenging efforts in composition and literacy studies to fix difference by taxonomizing and redefining it. Although such efforts have enhanced the way we teach with and across difference, these kinds of approaches "to studying and writing about difference still freeze particular subjects, details and interpretations within the research literature" (12). In arguing for what she calls "marking difference," Kerschbaum uses language similar to Bucholtz and Hall's to accent the importance of making visible "the dynamism, the relationality, and the emergence of difference" (7). Although they do not directly identify themselves as proponents of translingualism, the vocabulary of motive accented by these transdisciplinary scholars nevertheless hints at an attitude, orientation, or perspective that defines in similar terms a position that has emerged in the literature on translingualism.

In the course of introducing translingualism to the field of composition and literacy studies, Horner, Lu, Royster and Trimbur (2011) accent many of these same characteristics in languages and language users in an effort "to develop alternatives to conventional treatments of language difference" (304). In the process, they invoke several of the figurations we have shared in our review of scholarly work on the periphery of translingualism. For example, they acknowledge that "the formation and definition of languages and language varieties are fluid" (304) and contend that a translingual approach "takes the variety, fluidity, intermingling, and changeability of languages as statistically demonstrable norms around the globe" (305). They also make every effort to demonstrate how a translingual approach "counters demands that writers must conform to fixed, uniform standards" by addressing "how language norms are actually heterogeneous, fluid and negotiable" (305). Horner, NeCamp and Donahue (2011) add a degree of nuance in their critique of what they call the "traditional multilingual model" by pointing out how the translingual model they support demonstrates how "languages and language boundaries are fluctuating and in constant revision" and the reasons "code-switching, borrowing, and blending of languages are [now] understood as the norm" (287). Together, Horner, Lu, Royster and Trimbur (2011) and Horner, NeCamp and Donahue (2011)engage in the critical process of highlighting figurations that signal the emergence of a vocabulary of motive that must come into play in our emergent understanding of language difference.

In "Translingual Literacy, Language Difference, and Matters of Agency," Min-Zhan Lu and Bruce Horner invoke a number of figurations that reflect an unwillingness on their part to treat languages, language users or doers, practices, conventions, and contexts "as discrete, preexisting, stable, and enumerable entities" (Lu and Horner 2013, 587) — among them, translation, renegotiation of meaning, always emergent, in process (a state of becoming), relational, mutually constitutive and dynamic. In so doing, they accent the ways in which a translingual approach is different from either a monolingual or multilingual approach. Lu and Horner also borrow and distill the ideas from a number of transdisciplinary scholars, among them Judith Butler, Anthony Giddens, and Alastair Pennycook, who provide a vocabulary for developing "an alternative conception of language difference in writing: one that, by insisting on the temporal character of utterances, recognizes difference not as deviation from a norm of 'sameness' but as itself the norm of language use" (584). In the course of borrowing different figurations from them, especially from Butler (e.g., the politics of the performative, the social iterability of linguistic practice, iteration as agentive), Lu and Horner signal an implicit desire to bring together a vocabulary of motive that will provide proponents of translingualism with the tools they need to challenge approaches to language difference that presume a discrete and stable universe of matter and meaning. In the course of reflecting on the array of figurations transdisciplinary scholars have invoked in their varied efforts to establish a theoretical and ideological perspective that can both inform and complicate our understanding of how language functions in a world where continuous change is the one constant, we are persuaded that the basic elements for constructing a shared vocabulary of motive exist. Before we close, however, we would like to review what we consider one of the more coherent and comprehensive vocabularies of motive we have come across, one with the potential to frame and enrich our understanding of translingualism as a viable alternative for engaging language difference.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction Crossing Divides: Exploring Translingual Writing Pedagogies and Programs Bruce Horner Laura Tetreault 3

Part 1 Theorizing Translinguality in Writing and its Teaching

1 Toward a New Vocabulary of Motive: Re(con)figuring Entanglement in a Translingual World Juan C. Guerra Ann Shivers-McNair 19

2 Translingual Practice, Ethnic identities, and Voice in Writing Sara P. Alvarez Suresh Canagarajah Eunjeong Lee Jerry Won Lee Shakil Rabbi 31

Part 2 Pedagogical Interventions

3 Enacting Translingual Writing Pedagogy: Structures and Challenges for Two Courses in Two Countries William B. Lalicker 51

4 Who Owns English in South Korea? Patricia Bizzell 70

5 Teaching Translingual Agency in Iteration: Rewriting Difference Bruce Horner 87

Part 3 Institutional/Programmatic Interventions

6 Disrupting Monolingual Ideologies in a Community College: A Translingual Studio Approach Katie Malcolm 101

7 Writing Assessment as the Conditions for Translingual Approaches: An Argument for Fairer Assessments Asao B. Inoue 119

8 Seizing an Opportunity for Translingual FYC at the University of Maine: Provocative Complexities, Unexpected Consequences Dylan B. Dryer Paige Mitchell 135

9 Becoming Global: Learning to "Do" Translingualism Chris Gallagher Matt Noonan 161

Part 4 Responses

10 Crossing, or Creating, Divides? A Plea for Transdisciplinary Scholarship Christine M. Tardy 181

11 The Ins and Outs of Translingual Work Thomas Lavelle 190

12 Language Difference and Translingual Enactments Kate Mangelsdorf 199

About the Authors 207

Index 211

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