Translingualism and Translanguaging: Definition From Lingusitic Experts

Multilingualism is becoming increasingly popular among people around the world. This includes students, professionals, and even educators. In fact, according to UNESCO, there are over 740 million people worldwide who speak multiple languages. Exactly like multilingualism, translingualism is also defined as speaking two or more languages fluently or having proficiency in one or more additional languages.

The term “multilingualism” is often associated with being able to speak two or more languages fluently. However, it is much broader than that. For example, you could be proficient in both written and spoken Spanish while still understanding the difference between the two. You might be fluent in both French and German, but struggle to understand why someone would say something differently in each language.

In addition, multilingualism encompasses many aspects of life such as learning about another culture, having knowledge of another language, and communicating across cultures.

Scholars’ Definition of Translingualism

According to Canagarajah, translingualism is a form of communication that involves a negotiation of code(s), including languages, media, gestural systems, and other semiotic resources, such as genre conventions. In his book Multilingual Writing, he believed that the study of writing cannot ignore the fact that we live in a world where people communicate in multiple ways. He goes on to argue that writing is about negotiating mobile codes, thus emphasizing the importance of understanding how different modes work together to produce meaning.

In her introduction to Multilingual Writing, Susanne Höninger noted that multiliteracies, including mobile codes, gestures, and media, are essential for effective communication. Since language is never used in isolation, it is impossible to only use a single language in our lives. As a result, people ought to learn how to negotiate between different modes of expression, since the same message might be produced differently depending on whether it is written in every language.

there is no single dominant language, nor is there a singular language that is spoken exclusively.


The term “translingualism” refers to the way in which people encounter multiple languages and cultures in everyday life. In recent decades, translingual encounters have become common across many domains including education, employment, tourism, migration, and international relations.

Moreover, translingualism is manifested in contemporary societies. We believed that the concept of translingualism provides a useful lens for understanding how language and culture interact in the age of globalization. We further suggest that it might provide insights into the nature of intercultural communication, particularly in relation to issues such as cultural competence, multilingualism, and multiculturalism.

We begin our exploration of the topic by examining some key dimensions of translingualism, namely the role played by language and culture in shaping each other; the extent to which translingualism involves interactions between individuals rather than groups; and the degree to which translingual encounters occur within national contexts versus global ones. We then examine three main areas where translingualism occurs: education, work, and travel.


In “The Translinguistic Practice of Code-Switching,” David E. Johnson described that code-switching and code-mashing are forms of translanguaging. He defined code-mixing as the use of one language within another, while code-mashing refers to the mixing of codes across languages. In both cases, he said, there is no single dominant language, nor is there a singular language that is spoken exclusively.

Johnson went on to describe how code-mixing and code-mashing play out in everyday life. For example, he notes that people who speak Spanish and English often mix words together when speaking about something like food. This is because Spanish and English are closely related languages, and many Spanish words are similar to the English word for the same thing. So, rather than saying “chicken soup,” someone might say “pollo con caldo.”

Similarly, when someone speaks French, he or she might add English words to make a sentence sound better. For instance, rather than saying “Je vais à la plage ce week-end,” you might say “Je vais au bord de l’eau ce week-end.” These examples show how we use multiple languages to communicate effectively.

For Johnson, code-mixing and -mashing are ways of being bilingual, and therefore, translanguaging. As such, he believes that educators must teach students to think critically about language and write in ways that reflect their identities.

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