Translanguaging vs. Code-switching

Two concepts of translanguaging and code-switching used in bilingual classrooms are often confused. However, they are different in terms of language interference and individuals involved in a language practice.

Garcia and Wei ( as cited in Molina & Samuelson, 2016) think that translanguaging is different from code-switching. Code-switching is seen as the process of changing two languages, whereas translanguaging is about “the speakers’ construction that creates the complete language repertoire” ( p. 3 ). To be more specific, translanguaging is a complex process of discursive practice where bilinguals know what they are saying while producing words in both languages, it is an existing controllable cognition. However different situations can be noticed, when bilingual individuals shift between two or more languages which depend on the purpose and environment of the communication. This is more of a code-switching, which Baker and Jones defined as “changing languages with a single conversation” (p.58 ). The main feature of the code-switching process is the purpose of the conversation. Mostly, code-switching is considered as linguistically incompetent ability. But it is also seen as unique ability due to the research studies conducted in the past 20 years. Baker and Jones highlighted its uniqueness as it has own rules and norms, and advanced level of complexity. Researchers also emphasized the benefits of code-switching. Martin ( as cited in Cahyani, Coursy & Barnett, 2016) suggests that code-switching is the set of “creative, pragmatic and safe practices…between the official language of the lesson and a language to which the classroom participants have a greater access’ (p.2).  Together, both code-switching and translanguaging are seen as a positive bilingual developmental process which raises a communicative ability to achieve a pedagogical aim. There is a difference in researching these areas of bilingual development as code-switching searches for “language interference and transfer” while translanguaging analyses “how bi/multilingual individuals are involved in their linguistic practice” ( Hornberger and Link, 2012, p. 267). The most important thing about code-switching is its systematic planning order used in the classroom. What Garcia, Mabule and De Beer say is that code-switching should be “responsible”, which means planned carefully in the classroom, as it develops cognitive skills of understanding any content material. Scaffolding considered as part of code-switching can be used in bilingual classrooms to develop metacognitive awareness. Translanguaging goes even further. According to Lewis, Jones, and Baker (2012), code-switching practices the notion of separating languages whereas translanguaging focuses on learning both languages at the same time without separating.

Kazakhstan, being considered as a multilingual society, could use these concepts while implementing a trilingual policy. Would it be better to focus on one concept or both concepts? What do you think?



5 thoughts on “Translanguaging vs. Code-switching

  1. Dear Maira, thanks for elaborating more about the difference between two complex concepts in multilingual/polilingual education field. And I strongly believe that translanguaging and code-switching is the ordinary patterns of the speech of almost each bilingual kazakhstani people. Before reading your article, I thought that these concepts mostly bring threats to the purity of the speech. However, there are some significant benefits that translanguaging and code-switching possess. I hope that for our society these concepts will impact only in a positive way. Although, applying them in every day language practice should be consciously limited to keep each language repertoire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Expert use of linking to the original sources, Maira (5/5). You’ve also done a nice job displaying a synthesized understanding of these two key terms.


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