Translanguaging or unequal languaging? Unfolding the plurilingual discourse of English medium instruction policy in Nepal’s public schools

Sah, Pramod K. and Li, Guofang (2022). Translanguaging or unequal languaging? Unfolding the plurilingual discourse of English medium instruction policy in Nepal’s public schools. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 25(6) pp. 2075–2094.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2020.1849011

Abstract

While other languages can be used in English-medium instruction (EMI) classrooms, little research has been conducted on the alignment of the use of these languages with the objectives of EMI policy and how bi/multilingual practices such as translanguaging respond to the sociopolitics of EMI classrooms. This case study examined both teachers’ and students’ language use in EMI classrooms in a multilingual public school in Nepal with minority students whose mother tongues were not Nepali. A critical discourse analysis of two content-area-subject classrooms showed that only Nepali and English translanguaging among students and teachers was identified and mother tongues were consistently excluded. While translanguaging in the two dominant languages could potentially create a flexible space for teaching/learning content knowledge, further interviews with teachers and administrators and a focus-group discussion with students revealed that stakeholders’ socially constructed linguistic hierarchy had led to the exclusion of the legitimate place of students’ mother tongues in their seemingly ‘ordinary’ translingual practices. The study also notes content-area teachers' pedagogic under-preparedness to use translanguaging effectively and justly in EMI classrooms, suggesting the need to reconsider the uncritical recommendation of translanguaging without reflecting on local realities and systemic barriers.

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