I was in the small South Indian town of Manipal last week. If you’re not from India, you may not have heard of it. It sits on a plateau overlooking the ancient coastal temple town of Udupi and is famous for one of India’s most well-known private universities, the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. I was invited to a learning event organised by CLIL@India, which is an EU Erasmus funded initiative run in collaboration with three other Indian universities. As the name indicates, it aims to promote Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in state-run and private schools in India.
I led two sessions at this event: evidence-based activities and translanguaging tasks with short authentic texts. I’ve been thinking about how to share the materials I used more widely but my presentations and the handouts are designed for a face-to-face workshop and would require some commentary and context-setting to understand. So I’ve decided to do a slow release of the activities I ran but first some context.
In their recently published paper, Jason Anderson and Amy Lightfoot include a useful definition from Garcia (2009) on translanguaging:
… the act performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic features or various modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximise communicative potential.
Translanguaging, unlike code-switching, involves a lot of blending, meshing and linguistic flexibility – something that’s characterised communication in India for centuries. The recent pedagogical focus on translanguaging argues for drawing on this phenomenon as a resource in the language classroom.
Over the past year, I’ve been working on developing my own awareness of multilingual practices and one way I’ve done this is by incorporating multilingual or translingual activities into my teaching/training repertoire. Soon after attending Jason’s presentation at the AINET Conference and a session with Jemima Hughes from the British Council, I designed Landshark, an activity that uses an Instagram post with text in Romanised Hindi. Since then, I’ve worked on some others which I was able to share with a group of 40 teachers at this workshop in Manipal. Here’s the first in a series I hope to blog about between now and January.
This short translingual text is from a mural at a railway station in South Bombay. This text like many others I’ve used comes from @mumbaipaused, my favourite Instagram account. Interestingly, the comments that accompany it also have examples of translanguaging. The text itself plays on the English word ‘calm’ and the Hindi word ‘kaam’ (work). I designed a task using this text in two parts. The first explores pronunciation and the second articles and formulaic expressions.
- Show learners the post from Instagram and get them to notice the play on words with the similar sounding ‘calm & kaam’. Get them to discuss the following questions in pairs:
- Where exactly is this sign?
- Why has this sign been painted in this place?
- How does it make people feel?
Focus on pronunciation
- Ask them to explain the meaning of ‘calm’ in Hindi (or any other home language) and ‘kaam’ in English to a partner.
- Now ask them to compare the pronunciation of the two words. Are they exactly the same? Elicit the mouth (rounded) and tongue positioning (back of the tongue low) for /a:/ and contrast this with the Hindi /आ/ sound.
- Now ask them to look at a list of Hindi words and come up with English words that sound similar:
Baan बाण (arrow)
Aam आम (mango)
Daak डाक (post)
Haath हाथ (hand)
Shaap शाप (curse)
Paath पाठ (lesson)
Here are the answers:
- Ask learners to say the Hindi-English word pairs to each other – noticing the subtle differences in the pronunciation of the vowel sounds. In some words, the consonant sounds are very different (paath – retroflex aspirated to alveolar aspirated or interdental). You may need to do additional modelling or drilling.
Focus on articles and formulaic expressions
- Project this table on a slide or write it up on the board.
Keep calm and go to
Keep calm and go
Keep calm and go to the
- Ask learners to work in groups to find more examples of nouns that can be used with these three formulaic expressions.
- I’ve included some possible answers in the following table. The teachers I was training also gave me “Keep calm go to bed/hell” 🙂 They also threw (to use the Indian English expression) a googly with “… go to temple”. I need to look that one up.
Keep calm and go to
Keep calm and go
Keep calm and go to the
- Ask learners why we’ve used the definite article before nouns like beach and library. Elicit that both the speaker and the listener know which place is being spoken about and it’s part of their shared knowledge.
- Tell them that church and school can also be used with the definite article. Ask them to discuss the difference in meaning between “Keep calm and go to church” vs. “go to the church” (being a member of the institution vs. being a visitor).
- Finally ask them to look at ‘home’ and discuss why this one doesn’t have the preposition “to” before it (“Go to home” is a common error among Indian speakers).
- Ask learners to look at the expressions that they came up with and narrate a short story that ends with them saying this expression to someone. For example, your sister finds a big tear in her dress a couple of hours before a party and throws a fit. And you say to her “Keep calm and go to the mall.”
I have used parts of this activity before but it was my first time doing it all together at the workshop in Manipal. I was worried about how familiar they would be with Hindi but wanted to start with this activity because it really demonstrates how you can do a lot with a tiny translingual text. Although the teachers mainly had Tulu, Kannada and Konkani as their L1s, they knew enough Hindi to engage with the activity and enjoy it as well! What I found really interesting was that the group was really diverse in terms of their English language proficiency with quite a few teachers at A1 and a few at C1 and the others in between. I think the tasks were useful for their own language development in addition to raising awareness of translanguaging.
- García, O. 2009. “Education, Multilingualism and Translanguaging in the 21st Century.” In Social Justice Through Multilingual Education, edited by T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R.Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, and M. Panda, 140–158. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
- (2018) Translingual practices in English classrooms in India: current perceptions and future possibilities, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2018.1548558
- The Instagram post was posted by @mumbaipaused on July 28, 2018: https://www.instagram.com/p/Blxc1rUFRnH/