About Project TRANSLATE
What educational dilemma is the project focused on?
U.S. schools are increasingly serving children who are bilingual or multilingual. This offers an incredible opportunity in that these students bring a host of understandings about language, including how language ‘works’ and about how to shift language to suit communicative goals. We can capitalize on this knowledge in our teaching. However, our collective work in schools suggests that teaching in this way is a challenge for teachers who may not know how to tap into students’ language resource. This was the reason we designed TRANSLATE.
What is TRANSLATE?
TRANSLATE (Teaching Reading And New Strategic Language Approaches To Emergent bilinguals) is an instructional approach that provides teachers with the means to access all of the language of their students learning English. In TRANSLATE, students are taught to identify key excerpts from language arts texts and to use selected cognitive, linguistic and social strategies to facilitate translation and comprehension of that text. After students create translated texts, they compare and evaluate their translations, and then summarize their newfound understandings.
How is this innovative?
In the past students learning English have been discouraged from using their primary language when speaking, reading and writing in English at school. This is an issue because we know from prior research that a bilingual isn’t just like a monolingual–for bilinguals language resources in a first and additional language are interconnected. TRANSLATE encourages, recruits and strategically deploys students’ non-English language resources for the purpose of reading, thinking about and comprehending English language texts.
This is also innovative because it gives teachers who may not be bilinguals themselves a way to honor students’ lived experiences as language learners. At Peabody, we designed TRANSLATE for all teachers with Emergent bilingual children in their classes but particularly for teachers who do not speak their students’ languages. Because most U.S. teachers are only speakers of English–and because bilingual education has been slow to be taken up in schools–we see a pressing need for this instruction. Indeed, the ‘all-or-nothing’ view of bilingual education has been deeply problematic for bilingual children, who are denied opportunities to use their language resources. TRANSLATE, which was designed in actual classrooms, aims to address this challenge.
What will the funding from the Spencer Foundation allow you to do?
Our goal is to provide teachers with a well-specified instructional approach that is supported by evidence of classroom feasibility and student gains in reading comprehension. Another important goal of our work is to improve the academic achievement of emergent bilingual students by tapping into the power of their full linguistic repertoires. Without funding from Spencer, this multiyear, multi-site project would not be possible.
We believe all multilingual learners deserve the opportunity to bring their entire linguistic selves to learning,
to define their futures, and to change our world.