Assignment Ideas: Advancing Multilingualism

“The label [Non-Native Speakers of English] served a purpose at one time to draw attention to those who spoke English from outside the dominant Anglo communities that traditionally claimed ownership over English. As globalization, the migration of people, and hybridizing of identities and communities become more pronounced, I don’t think the term is useful anymore. Scholars are questioning if there is anything called a pure native speaker in English. English is part of the linguistic repertoire and identity formation of millions of people from their birth” (Suresh Canagarajah, NNEST Caucus Forum).
“…a view of English that stresses its development as a function of change and not just of spread reveals more people are learners of English than they realize and that the stakes of learning English are quite high for everyone. Language learning, then, is less a matter of shifting to an appreciably standard variety and more a matter of maintaining skills in the face of language as a livening construct” (Jay Jordan, Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realities 12).
"In a globalizing world, to play NNSs [nonnative English speakers] at a disadvantage when it comes to publishing their work not only goes against natural justice but is also likely to be impoverishing in terms of the creation of knowledge" (John Flowerdew, "Attitudes of Journal Editors to Nonnative Speaker Contributions").

Multimodal composition advances multilingualism in the college classroom. Emory students already write and speak within global networks and multilingual discourse communities, so the goal of multilingual assignments is to actualize the skills students bring to the classroom. Furthermore, while students compose digital texts within a local context, their texts have the potential to reach a global audience once published to the Web. When students make rhetorical choices directed toward a global audience, they no longer privilege an exclusively monolingual standard. Since multimodal assignments such as remix, tactical media, and mapping, as well as digital story telling, games, presentations, and portfolios mix an array of languages and discourses via networked communication, the perceived disadvantages of multilingual students are transformed into shared strengths.


Jordan, Jay. Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realties. Urbana: NCTE Press, 2012.

Jordan, “…argues that students of English as a second language, rather than always being novice English language learners, often provide models for language uses as English continues to spread and change as an international lingua franca. Starting from the premise that "multilingualism is a daily reality for all students--all language users," Jay Jordan proceeds to both complicate and enrich the responsibilities of the composition classroom as it attempts to accommodate and instruct a diversity of students in the practices of academic writing. But as Jordan admits, theory is one thing; practical efforts to implement multilingual and even Translingual approaches to writing instruction are another. Through a combination of historical survey, meta-analytical critique of existing literature, and naturalistic classroom research, Jordan's study points to new directions for composition theory and pedagogy that more fully account for the presence and role of multilingual writers” (Amazon).

Canagarajah, Suresh.

Professor Canagarajah teaches in the departments of Applied Linguistics and English at Pennsylvania State University. He advocates a multilingual approach to the teaching of writing within global communications networks.  The following books deal with globalization, linguistic practices, and multilingualism: Translingual Practice: global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations, Literacy as Translingual Practice: Between Communities and Classrooms, and Globalization and Language Teaching.

Ito, Mizuko, et al., eds. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010.

In this collaborative, ethnographic project draws on an array of case studies to show how users compose multimodally in national and international contexts. The first section on “Media Ecologies” may be of specific interest to the digital assignments invention because the subjects profiled are seamlessly multilingual and multimodal.

Fraiberg, Steven. “Composition 2.0: Toward a Multilingual and Multimodal Framework.” CCC 62.1 (2010): 100-126.

In his article Fraiberg, “…call[s] for attention to ‘code mashing,’ or the complex blending of multimodal and multilingual texts and literacy practices in our teaching and research” (102). The article concludes with some practical assignment applications of ‘code mashing’ are remix writing that incorporates multiple languages and/or discourses, such as ways to expand multi-genre assignments to include different languages and directing local projects to a global audience.

Horner, Bruce, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur. “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach” College English 73.3 (2011): 303-321.

The authors “call for a Translingual approach to the teaching of writing” to mitigate the perception that students who speak multiple languages need to be disabused of their error in the face of a monolingual standard (303). Instead of restraining rhetorical choices, the authors argue standards of fluency and competency must be revised to close the gap between outdated nationalist ideals and the ways all people speak many different languages. The cause of translingualsim in the writing classroom can be advanced by expanding ideas of what “constitutes correctness,” as well as recognizing the “historicity and variability” of standards (310-11).

McKay, Sandra Lee. Teaching English as an International Language: An Introduction to the Role of English as an International Language and Its Implications for Language Teaching.

McKay, “Describes the spread of English worldwide and its practical and educational consequences Discusses the problem of how we define standards when the notion of a single 'standard' form of English is no longer valid Explores the critical role of culture in language teaching Looks at the implications of English as an international language for current teaching methods Suitable for trainee and practicing teachers and other ELT professionals, especially curriculum and materials developers” (Google Books).

Students’ Right to Their Own Language.”

This resolution was published by the Conference on College Composition and Communication in 1974. Guided by disciplines such as applied linguistics and cultural studies that were burgeoning in the second half of the twentieth century, the SRTOL, “reflects an infusion of nonprescriptivist sociolinguistic thinking about the relationships English language dialects have with one another and the relationships their speakers should have with dialects they use. By taking the position that students’ dialects acquired before their schooling are systemic and that they provide students and their teachers with firm bases for langue teaching, SRTOL marks the emergence of what Keith Gilyard has termed bidialectalist thinking about language variety in colleges and universities” (Jordan 9). While prescient in its emphasis on heterogeneity over essence, the SRTOL aims remain teleological: “the document’s preoccupation with ‘making [students] feel confident” (CCCC 15), to ease students’ transitions into apparently more appropriate language forms” (Jordan 10).

Wohlwend, Karen E. and Cynthia Lewis. “Critical Literacy, Critical Engagement, and Digital Technology.”

In their article Wohlwend and Lewis argue for a critical engagement that “is built upon the legacy of critical literacy and rational deconstruction of logical structures of text. Critical interpretation and production of embodied literacies in digital cultures provides a way to address the complicity and complicity of desires, pleasure, and sensations bound up with reading (Janks 2002) and to attend to overlaps, disruptions, and affordances among convergences, embodiment, and global flows.”

 Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts. London: Routledge, 2011.

“Now in its third edition, the Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts — sponsored by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English — offers an integrated perspective on the teaching of the English language arts and a comprehensive overview of research in the field.”

Multilingual Literacy Narratives.

 Multilingual Literacy Narratives is an online exhibit curated by the Digital Archives for Literacy Narratives. The exhibit showcases the audio and visual literacy narratives texts by five multilingual students. As the authors explain, “The growing interest in the complex dynamics of multilingual literacies makes our investigation of the literacy narratives of multilingual contributors to the DALN a valuable resource for understanding and appreciating the linguistic and rhetorical versatility with which multilingual composers creatively navigate a variety of contexts, discourses, and modes of communication.” Taking up the cause of global Englishes against a standard/deficient model of writing and language acquisition, the DALN’s exhibit demonstrates ways tech enhances strengths multilingual students bring to the writing classroom. 

Cox, Michele, Jay Jordan, Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, and Gwen Gray Sanchez. Reinventing Identities in Second Language Writing

A valuable collection that addresses the problems of identity in second language writing, with a diverse range of authors examining identity from different perspectives, institutional positions, and geographical locations. The second section of the book focuses on L2 identity as a resource in multiple settings, including writing centers, secondary schools, and college classrooms. In their chapter for this section, "'Indigenous Interests': Reconciling Literate Identities across Extracurricular and Curricular Contexts," Kevin Roozen and Angelica Herrera conclude by calling on teachers to "find ways of helping second language writers take up and contribute to academic discourse in a manner that respects and does justice to the literate experiences and identities that they bring to the classroom... by recognizing, valuing, and ecnouraging this sort of interweaving of the multiple literate practices persons possess" (158). The third and final section of the collection on globalism and technology, includes a chapter on "Social Networking in a Second Language: Engaging Multiple Literate Practices through Identity Composition" by Kevin Eric DePew and Susan Miller-Cochran that examines a series of case studies to conclude that "reliance on the multimodal features of social networking sites to compose their identities emphasizes the growing importance of multiple literate practices for online communication" (288). 

Zamel, Vivian. "Strangers in Academia: The Experiences of Faculty and ESL Students across the Curriculum"

Zamel examines two divergent faculty responses to ESL as representative examples. She states his goal as wanting teachers to consider institutional contexts and assumptions about student writing. Many university teachers identify knowledge and language as separate entities. Such teachers believe that for students to acquire language, their deficit skills must be emphasized. Grammar must be taught as a necessary precursor to language acquisition. A solution to this problematic belief system is extensive dialogue across the university. Such discussion about problematic conceptions of language acquisition can help students and teachers reposition themselves and create healthy contact zones of contestation.

Kevin Eric DePew. Social Media at Academia’s Periphery: Studying Multilingual Developmental Writers’ Facebook Composing Strategies.

Mallory Leigh Dalton. Social networking and second language acquisition: Exploiting Skype Chat for the purpose of investigating interaction in L2 English learning.

Maria Luisa Malerba. Social Networking in Second Language Learning. (slideshare)