Explicit Encouragement and Use of Translanguaging Matter: Transforming Online Undergraduate Academic Writing

Thematic Section: Developing beliefs and practices of translanguaging in online spaces 

translanguaging, online, EFL, teacher education, United States, Kazakhstan

Serikbolsyn Tastanbek, Astana IT University

This paper presents results of action research on translanguaging beliefs and writing competence of first-year Kazakhstani undergraduate students. The student population of this institution is speakers of at least Kazakh, Russian and English languages that translanguage both in and out of the classroom similar to other residents of Kazakhstan (Abdrakhmanova, 2017; Belova, 2017; Ospanova, 2017). The university does not have a clear language policy enforced by the administrators and faculty, which might give the impression of discouraging translanguaging. Although translanguaging affects all aspects of students’ language expression, writing is the most measurable in the online context. Therefore, the researchers want to pose the following research questions: 1) Does explicit instructor encouragement change the students’ beliefs about translanguaging? 2) Does translanguaging pedagogy positively affect the writing competence of students? In this research with experimental and control groups (Makalela, 2015), one instructor with a similar linguistic repertoire as the learners will explicitly encourage students to translanguage, while the second instructor, who is a native English speaker that does not use Kazakh and Russian, will keep a neutral stance toward translanguaging. The first instructor will purposefully use activities that involve translanguaging, e.g. discussing topics using the whole repertoire and using sources in different languages but writing in English, while the second one will not. The sources of data collected over the 10-week trimester are pre-test surveys before and after the experiment and portfolio writing assignments. Using the findings, the action researchers advocate for, firstly, a more positive attitude toward translanguaging on the part of students, faculty and administration of the university, and, secondly, overt use of translanguaging to improve the students’ linguistic confidence and competence.