Literacy Practices of Multilingual Students

Traditionally, teachers of reading and writing have assumed texts as monolingual and monomodal. This dominant orientation to textuality, variously referred to as alphabetic literacy or autonomous literacy, has resulted in the multilingual literacy practices of students being perceived as deficient. Schooling has engaged in suppressing the multilingual and multimodal literacy practices and imposing alphabetic literacy on multilingual students. However, in the context of globalization, multiculturalism, and digital communication, everyone is becoming acquainted with multimodal and multilingual literacies. There is now an effort to understand such literacy practices and inculcate such skills among all students.

This project involves observing the literacy practices of students in township schools in Cape Town in July-August 2011. By adopting an ethnographic orientation, the researcher will attempt to study literacy practices from students’ own perspectives. The researcher will also closely study the essays written in English by township students to explain how students merge their local languages, values, and discourses in their writing. This study will lead to theorizing multilingual literacies in more complex terms and making suitable policy recommendations for schools.

Project leader(s):
  • Suresh Canagarajah (Penn State)