Purdue University Graduate School

A Translingual Approach and Its Implications for L2 Writing

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posted on 2020-04-21, 21:28 authored by Yachao SunYachao Sun

A translingual approach to writing as a new paradigm has been proposed to challenge English monolingualism, question traditional ideas on language difference, advocate for writer agency in shaping their own language, and legitimize additional languages/varieties as resources rather than deficits in the target language teaching, learning, and using. Though these central tenets are broadly valorized, the notion of “translingual” has elicited a number of concerns, such as the partial representation of language mixture ideas in sociolinguistics and second language studies, the pedagogical implications for language learners, the discouragement of discussion about similarities and differences among languages, and the missing discussion of language development. Given these concerns, a translingual approach has not been well-represented in the field of L2 writing.

In this dissertation, I introduced the development of the notion of a translingual approach to writing, summarized its conceptual debates, outlined its practical enactment, conducted a case study to examine a L2 writing process from a translingual approach, and discussed the possibilities and challenges of a translingual approach to L2 writing. To be specific, the notion of a translingual approach to writing has been continually extended by incorporating various concepts, such as a temporal-spatial approach, translation, spatial repertoires, and an ecological approach. This extension has elicited some debates on its conceptualization, e.g., code-switching vs. code-meshing vs. rhetorical sensibility, language competence vs. language performance, a multilingual approach vs. a translingual approach, and a translingual approach to writing and L2 writing. Despite these debates, a translingual approach to writing has been implemented in different contexts (such as EFL, ESL, ENL, and cross-cultural contexts) with different writer groups (e.g., K-12 students, college students, and professional writers) and for different purposes (such as, improving teaching, motivating learning, and being more creative in writing).

The results from the conceptual debate synthesis, enactment summary, and the case study indicated that a translingual approach is possible to benefit L2 writing theoretically, ideologically, and pedagogically. However, the findings also showed the challenges of a translingual approach to L2 writing, such as the confusing definition of “translingual writing” with L2 writing, the resistance of language norms by a translingual approach, and the blurring differences between languages and language users. Hopefully, this dissertation could be a bridge between a translingual approach to writing and L2 writing.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tony Silva

Additional Committee Member 2

Irwin Weiser

Additional Committee Member 3

Margie Berns

Additional Committee Member 4

April Ginther

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