Li Wei is Chair of Applied Linguistics and Director of the UCL Centre for Applied Linguistics at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London, UK, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK. His research interests are in the broad areas of bilingualism and multilingualism. He has published extensively in journals ranging from Applied Linguistics, Modern Language Journal, Journal of Pragmatics, Language in Society to Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, and Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics. He is Principal Editor of the International Journal of Bilingualism (Sage, SSCI, AHCI) and Applied Linguistics Review (De Gruyter, SSCI, AHCI) and series editor for ‘Research Methods in Language and Linguistics’ (Wiley-Blackwell). His recent publications include The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Multi-Competence (with Vivian Cook, 2016) and Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education (with Ofelia Garcia, 2014) which won the 2015 British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Book Prize.
The notion of Translanguaging has, in the last ten years or so, attracted a considerable amount of attention in the applied linguistics community. On the whole, it has been accepted as an empowering and effective pedagogical approach to language education, particularly bilingual education. Its significance as a theoretical concept, especially as a theory of Language, remains controversial. Some question its added value compared to the more established concepts such as code-switching or languaging. In this presentation, I review the geneses of and different approaches to Translanguaging and explore the theoretical motivations behind the concept and the methodological challenges in its application to real data. I will argue that Translanguaging offers a new way of conceptualizing Language that is more relevant to the linguistic practices of the 21st century, whilst respecting historical facts about human language development. I contextualise the discussion in the debates over the Modularity of Mind hypothesis, language evolution, and multilingual language users’ Symbolic and Multi-Competence. I also highlight the necessity to bridge the artificial, and ideological, divide between the socio-cultural and what’s been called the cognitive, approaches to dynamic multilingual practices. I will discuss the implications of the Translanguaging perspective on Language for language learning, use, and policy.