Beyond named languages: A step too far?

Sage Journal,


Multilingual education is an urgent and pressing concern in the Indian educational scenario. While the National Education Policy (2020) acknowledges multilingualism as a resource in educational contexts and reiterates earlier policies calling for mother tongue-based education in elementary classrooms, it does not provide guidance in terms of how to productively accommodate multiple languages in the classroom. Multilingual education will be much stronger if it is based on a strong understanding of multilinguality — the idea that the human mind is fundamentally multilingual in nature. A new, but substantial paradigm of scholarship addressing multilinguality is that of translanguaging’, which views named languages as socio-political constructs and argues that multilinguals have a unified linguistic repertoire that they flexibly, creatively and adaptively draw upon. Accepting the grounding assumptions of translanguaging would has important implications for curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in educational spaces. In this article, we describe and critique the translanguaging perspective, even while acknowledging its positive contributions. We point out, especially its failure to provide guidance in terms of how to productively accommodate translanguaging in classrooms.