Multimodality and Translingualism

The articles highlighted below represent advances in rhet-comp’s “translingual turn” (Atkinson et al). That is, Lu, Canagarajah, and Lee, and Jenks highlight the critical, rhetorical potential of World Englishes and how users negotiate or “shuttle between” languages according to audience, situation, and purpose. Not shying away from the embodied modality of discourse, they also examine how Englishes become a lingua franca for electronic communication that transcends merely transaction or expository purposes. Georgia Tech users can access these articles through the library’s online journals portal.

Canagarajah, A. Suresh. “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued.” CCC, vol. 57, no. 4, 2006, pp. 586-619.

Canagarajah synthesizes perspectives in TESOL/applied linguistics and composition to craft a rhetorically-attuned model of “World Englishes”. He calls upon teachers and students to “be proficient in negotiating a repertoire of Englishes” based on audience and context, and develop techniques for orchestrating plural forms of English within and against dominant genre norms and language “standards” (591). For example, in the technique of code meshing, writers create “hybrid texts that contain divergent varieties of English” in order to advance their own purposes (598). For those interested in WOVEN/multimodal composition, Canagarajah also explores how users of different Englishes are coming into greater contact in online spaces.

Fraiberg, Steven. “Composition 2.0: Towards a Multilingual, Multimodal Framework.” CCC, vol. 62, no.1, 2010, pp. 100-126. 

Fraiberg, writing in the early 2010s, calls for the integration of composition’s translingual and multimodal turns as “a key for moving our research and teaching into the twenty-first century” (100). Applying the earlier work of theorists like Canagarajah, Lu, and Bruce Horner, he explores how “multilingualism is one more [rhetorical] resource in a more complex semiotic repertoire distributed across global and local contexts” and how work in digital humanities can aid accounts of “language as situated, dynamic, heterogenous, co-constitutive, and contested” (104). Fraiberg specifically focuses on the multilingual communication practices of an Israeli tech firm as a case study, noting the team’s shuttling between languages in both its public-facing websites and everyday workplace communication. With its focus on the “remixing of composition,” this article should interest those who want to know more about the intersection of World Englishes, multimodal composition, and business communication.

Lee, Jerry Won and Christopher Jenks. “Doing Translingual Dispositions.” CCC, vol. 68, no. 2, 2016, 317-344.

In their study of paired composition courses in the US and Hong Kong, Lee and Jenks explore the affordances of “translingual dispositions,” or cultivating “openness to different types of English language use, especially those that are traditionally marginalized” as a goal for college composition courses (324). They contend that “even students who might be considered monolingual” (321) can develop this ethos by becoming aware of 1) how language identities are ideologically constructed, 2) the variant “Englishes” they use in everyday life, and 3) how they interact with speakers of different “Englishes”. However, by studying the ways in which students in Hong Kong and the US represented themselves in literacy autobiographies, they also call for us to attend to the multiple, unpredictable ways that students negotiate with and among languages. For those interested in WOVEN/multimodal communication, this study also looks at how students in both countries developed strategies for establishing ethos and communicating with one another online.

Lu, Min-Zhan. “Essay on the Work of Composition: Composing English Against the Order of Fast Capitalism.” CCC, vol. 56, no.1, 2004, 16-49.

Lu draws upon both postcolonial critique and the vocabulary of multimodal design to position World Englishes as a critical rhetorical antidote to the US-centric corporate values of globalization. Calling upon American composition teachers to “rework our relations to [English] users worldwide” (18), she argues that “all users of English are working on and working with very specific, often complex and sometimes dissonant discursive resources and for potentially complex and conflicting purposes” (26). Through vivid, qualitative case studies that span anonymous English-language sign writers in China to such “master designers” as Gloria Anzaldua, Lu makes the case for valuing the work of multilingual rhetors in all genres and suggests ways for implementing responsive and responsible approaches to World Englishes in the classroom.