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Bite-Sized Tips and Strategies

In this section, you can review bite-sized tips and strategies to improve your practice of teaching with English as a medium of instruction.

Translanguaging as a Pedagogical Strategy in Using English as a Medium of Instruction

One of the most common challenges that instructors face when they are teaching a course with English as a medium of instruction is the ambiguity surrounding translanguaging (re. Cen Williams and Colin Baker).  According to García, translanguaging refers to the practice “performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic features or various modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximize communicative potential” (p. 140). Furthermore, translanguaging can also occur when students and the instructor have access to and ease with more than one language such as German and English. 

In other words, translanguaging is the practice of using two language systems in order to create efficient learning opportunities by enhancing communication between the instructor and students. In the context of using English as a medium of instruction, translanguaging has appeared as a welcome development and can be utilized effectively as a strategy when both the instructor and the students have access to at least two language systems.

At TU Berlin, the practical value of translanguaging translates into an awareness that can allow the instructors to use both German and English when they know that all of the students can work with these languages. In practice, this can mean the freedom and willingness to switch between these two language systems. In order for this to work; however, it is necessary for instructors to share this attitude with students and appreciate the value of translanguaging as a constructive and positive skill set rather than understanding switches between English and German as a problem that needs to be resolved.

Such a practical pedagogical strategy can lead to creating learning activities that give students the freedom to use and switch between German and English. If, for example, an instructor is teaching a topic using English, the next task for students can ask students to respond to the task in German, or vice versa.

Furthermore, the instructor can welcome the use of different languages when students are engaging with learning materials individually. However, the instructor also needs to make it clear when students need to use a specific language, such as writing assignments or exams in English. This type of freedom for students to engage with the content in languages that are available to them enhances their engagement and creates confidence to switch to English. A relatively recent study, for instance, determined that enabling translanguaging as a pedagogical strategy leads to “affective and social advantages as well as a deep understanding of the content” (Leketi).

Practically, if you have a course in which students speak both German and English, you can use both languages when you switch between tasks. You can use German to introduce a topic and ask students to complete their assignment in English.

In summary, remember that translanguaging is about the process of sense-making and communicating effectively. Therefore, it has the specific aim of increasing learning outcomes. In practice, as long as your students have access to two language systems, you can get creative and use both German and English for different tasks and activities in order to create a more authentic learning atmosphere that responds to the demographic needs of an international university.

The rationale behind this strategy is simple: in a world where students as well as instructors use different languages naturally and authentically, especially in international settings like TU Berlin, the pedagogical attitudes about using English as a medium of instruction can also respond to this need by providing opportunities for students and normalizing the use of translanguaging as a welcome and valuable tool to teach and learn more and to improve the overall quality of using English as a medium of instruction.

 Emre Yesilbas, 10.06.2020


For more, please see:

García, Ofelia (2009). Education, multilingualism and translanguaging in the 21st century. In: Ajit Mohanty, Minati  Panda, Robert  Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (eds). Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the local. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, pp. 128-145.


Leketi Makalela (2015) Moving out of linguistic boxes: the effects of translanguaging strategies for multilingual classrooms, Language and Education, 29:3, 200-217, DOI: 10.1080/09500782.2014.994524

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