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The semiotics of translanguaging: An example and its application to critical language pedagogy

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Title:The semiotics of translanguaging: An example and its application to critical language pedagogy
Authors:Rickman, Kevin
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Date Issued:22 Apr 2021
Abstract:This paper concerns the topics of translanguaging and multilingual education as they
stand in relation to critical pedagogy, and the main thrust of the argument is as follows. In
multilingual classrooms, either language classes wherein monolinguals are progressing towards
multilingualism or in general classes wherein the student population is already multilingual, a
formal and systematized approach to education that employs semiotics as a foundation and
model, which does not currently exist in language education and research, is shown to be a viable
and fecund starting position for language educators particularly throughout this paper. The
approach I am designing and exemplifying herein will also allow educators to apply sine qua non
aspects and components of the critical pedagogy field to empower themselves and their students,
enact a more democratic language policy and practices in the classroom and associated activities,
and act as an ingress route into more deeply understanding how translanguaging works, how the
students are using, and misusing, specific aspects of their languages. This will then allow those
students to deploy their socio-cultural, heritage, political, personal, and other experience and
knowledge to further both their language learning and developments as individuals and
critically-aware members of their society. In order to do this, I must first describe
translanguaging as it is approached now, and this will reveal to us the shortcomings of those
approaches, namely, treating all material as though it all fits into one group with the same
linguistics and cultural background despite the fact that semiotics fundamentally operates in a far
more nuanced and detailed way. After reviewing a portion of the current literature, I cover the
details and crucial difference between the two semiotic systems--the foundation in Charles
Sanders Peirce's as semeiotic system, which was bolstered by the phenomenology of his fellow American Pragmatists at the time including William James, and the extrapolation in Umberto
Eco's semiotics that focuses more closely on the language aspects that I am focusing on as well,
for whichI am employing to make my case. After explaining the relevant aspects of these
semiotic systems, I diagram this process to illustrate a portion of what is occurring in
multilingual, multicultural translanguaging events that makes a multilingual language policy so
crucial to the classrooms in which these events occur. As this is a proof of concept paper, I am
employing utterances that I have made as an English as a First Language learner of Japanese and
Mandarin have made myself, and this allows us to see that, although these utterances are not data
directly collected in the wild, they do serve my purposes in this paper, which is merely to show
how a more detailed and specific employment of semiotics as a methodology for analysis can be
productive in ways that current users of the term are missing out on. This acts as the gateway for
us to connect my theoretical semiotic translanguaging discussion to critical pedagogy, which is
essential to this discussion since those who are multilingual often exist in a power hierarchy that
is not beneficial to them and a socio-cultural situation that disempowers them by pushing for
uniformity and conformity rather than cherishing linguistic and cultural diversity. This proof of
concept paper can then act as a prototype for how other researchers involved in semiotics to any
extent can develop a more detailed and systematized approach to the semiotic resources with
which they are engaged and act as a call to action for changes in both language and classroom
policies. It can also act as the framework for language educators, or educators of any kind whose
student body is multilingual, to understand their student's language use on a deeper functional
level thereby facilitating a more meaningful and effective approach to educator-student
communicative relationships.
Appears in Collections: MA and AGC Scholarly Papers

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