The joys of translanguaging

Yesterday, my little one sat down at the table and said “Mummy, I need a prat”. I’ve been enjoying hearing her stop-gap responses to language she can’t remember, but this time I thought it best to offer her the appropriate word.
“Would you like a plate?”
“A prate?”
“A plate”
“No, I need a prat”.

She has been problem-solving in this way from around the age of three and as far as I am aware uses her go-to Portuguese to patch up sentences in English.

It is interesting to me that she is able to instinctively select the right part of the word in Portuguese, particularly as she still incorrectly conjugates many of her verbs in the third person singular.

I’m sure there are established observable developmental patterns in language acquisition (which I know nothing about) but absorbing the grammatical framework of a language as a child is clearly not as linear as I would expect from language learning text books.

My daughter can seemingly effortlessly come out with a sentence formed with the past subjunctive in Portuguese (eg It is as if it were a dinosaur) but still says “Eu terminou” (mixed first person and third person singular for “I finished” when she needs help on the toilet).

Back to patching up sentences in English using fragments of words in Portuguese, which is still her stronger language.

I noticed this first happening with verbs. She would select the verb root and then use it and pronounce it as if it were English.

“It was the beetle I was chamming.” (Chamar is to call)

“I’m going to cant.” (Cantar is to sing)

“Let’s ped Granny.” (Pedir is to ask for)

Since this technique seems to work quite successfully with verbs, she seems to have adopted it for nouns too – just chop off the end of the word and pronounce it with an English accent.

This week she referred to toothpaste as the pasta of dents. And of course plate becomes prat.

Writing this post has proved to be the push I needed to actually look up the definition for ‘translanguaging’ and I’m pleased to find that it is exactly the right word to describe what my little one has been doing.

In their article ‘What is translanguaging?‘, the EAL Journal states that “Translanguaging is about communication, not about language itself”.

And good old Wikipedia provides this helpful definition:

“Translanguaging is the process whereby multilingual speakers use their languages as an integrated communication system.

Translanguaging is an extension of the concept of languaging, the discursive practices of language speakers, but with the additional feature of using multiple languages, often simultaneously. It is a dynamic process in which multilingual speakers navigate complex social and cognitive demands through strategic employment of multiple languages.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do any language learners you know use translanguaging to get their message across? Or do find yourself doing it?

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