Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

In Search of the “Whole” Writing Experience: On Translingualism in Theory and Practice

Shao-wei Huang, University at Buffalo SUNY (United States)


This paper looks into how translingualism better prepares English Language Learners (ELLs) transition from the beginning to the advanced phase of their learning process as well as reconceptualize error as an idea. As an international writing consultant, I am interested in looking at how translingualism can help ELL students recognize that writing in English is not so much a passive activity as might fallaciously be assumed. Transcending an “attitude or approach to be adopted,” translingualism is a reality that ELLs have been living in, which shows itself “in all language use, not just in writing” (Hall 43). One of the earlier issues ELLs encounter is that they could regard themselves as passive recipients of Standard English, who mostly mimic and memorize the meaning of words as they have been instructed from their beginning phase of learning English. Translingualism helps students address this gap by challenging the idea of the separation of students’ first language and second language in their use of English. When ELL students come to recognize that L2 (Standard English) is a rhetorized correctness and not a purely linguistic one, the binary between their L1 and L2 during their writing process could start collapsing. L2, in other words, will not be viewed as the target and the only origin of their ideas. With the collapsing of the border between L1 and L2, students will reach a “rhetorical sensibility” and become more active in negotiating meaning when their different languages as resources become their full communicative repertoire they bring to bear in their writings (Guerra 228). Such assertiveness brought by translingualism, so to speak, highlights the idea that errors, especially those associated with issues of translating L1 to L2 often experienced by ELLs in the early phase of learning, might have the opportunity to be reconceptualized as they can now be seen as the results of the negotiation between languages.

Keywords: translingualism, rhetorical sensibility, negotiation.


  • Guerra, Juan. “Cultivating a Rhetorical Sensibility in the Translingual Writing Classroom.” College English, vol. 78, no. 3, Jan. 2016, pp. 228–33.
  • Hall, Jonathan. “The Translingual Challenge: Boundary Work in Rhetoric & Composition, Second Language Writing, and WAC/WID.” Across the Disciplines, vol. 15, no. 3, Nov. 2018, pp. 28–47.

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