Promoting multilingualism through translanguaging in South African classrooms

Keywords: translanguaging, multilingualism, translingual pedagogy, multilingual habitus


Multilingualism has become a ‘buzz’ term in the academic fora in South Africa and the world at large. Research on multilingualism in South Africa has become ubiquitous, however, academic policies have rendered multilingualism a concealed reality. This paper aims to highlight findings of an inquiry into the existence of multilingual students in an academic literacy class. The paper also intends to bring out how multilingual students utilise their language practices in their mission to understand academic concepts. In this study, students’ perceptions about their multilingual nature are brought to the fore using a qualitative statistical analysis approach. A questionnaire was administered to solicit multilingual students’ views regarding the use of all the languages in their repertoire for academic purposes. The outcome shows that multilingual students benefit more from using a translingual approach to understand academic concepts as opposed to using the code-switching approach. Finally, the study shows that students yearn for the recognition and  utilisation of their multilingual nature in their academic endeavours. The paper will respond by suggesting ways in which  translingual pedagogy can be used to leverage students’ multilingual habitus.


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Author Biography

Vimbai Mbirimi-Hungwe, Sefako Makgatho University, South Africa

Vimbai Mbirimi-Hungwe is a sociolinguist who holds a PhD from the University of Limpopo.  Dr Mbirimi-Hungwe works as a senior lecturer at Sefako Makgatho University of Health Sciences. Her areas of interest are multilingualism, translanguaging and translingual pedagogy. She uses translanguaging strategy among multilingual students in her teaching and research. She is passionate about recognising students’ language practices in her teaching and research. Dr Mbirimi-Hungwe has published 17 research articles and one co-edited volume, with multilingualism and translanguaging as focus.

How to Cite
Mbirimi-Hungwe, V. (2023). Promoting multilingualism through translanguaging in South African classrooms. Journal for Language Teaching , 57(1), 1-20.