Skip to main content Accessibility help

Language Learning Sans Frontiers: A Translanguaging View

  • Li Wei (a1) and Wing Yee (Jenifer) Ho (a2)

In this article, we present an analytical approach that focuses on how transnational and translingual learners mobilize their multilingual, multimodal, and multisemiotic repertoires, as well as their learning and work experiences, as resources in language learning. The approach is that of translanguaging, which seeks to push the boundaries not only between different named languages but also between different modalities and across language scripts and writing systems. We base our arguments on a study of self-directed learning of Chinese via online platforms in the context of mobility and aim to demonstrate the transformative capacity of translanguaging. In doing so, we highlight the need for a transdisciplinary approach to language learning that transcends the boundaries between linguistics, psychology, and education, and in particular, the need to go beyond the artificial divides of the different modalities of language learning to strengthen the connections between research on bilingualism and multilingualism and research on language teaching and learning.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Language Learning Sans Frontiers: A Translanguaging View
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Language Learning Sans Frontiers: A Translanguaging View
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Language Learning Sans Frontiers: A Translanguaging View
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Hide All
Adami, E. (2015). A social semiotic perspective on digital mobility. Media Education, 6 (2), 184207.
Baker, C. (2001). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (3rd ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Bezemer, J. (2014). Multimodal transcription: A case study. In Norris, S. & Maier, C. D. (Eds.), Interactions, images and texts: A reader in multimodality (pp. 155169). Boston, MA: De Gruyter Mouton.
Block, D. (2014). Moving beyond “lingualism”: Multilingual embodiment and multimodality in SLA. In May, S. (Ed.), The multilingual turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL and bilingual education (pp. 5477). London, UK: Routledge.
Cook, V., & Li, W. (Eds.). (2016). The Cambridge handbook of linguistic multi-competence (Cambridge handbooks in language and linguistics). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Cowley, S. J. (2017). Changing the idea of language: Nigel Love's perspective. Language Sciences, 61, 4355.
Dafouz, E., & Smit, U. (2014). Towards a dynamic conceptual framework for English-medium education in multilingual university settings. Applied Linguistics, 37 (3), 397415.
De Houwer, A. (2009). Bilingual first language acquisition. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Dooly, M., & Helm, F. (2017). Challenges in transcribing multimodal data: A case study. Language Learning & Technology, 21 (1), 166185.
Fishman, J. A. (1965). Who speaks what language to whom and when? La Linguistique, 1 (2), 6788.
Flewitt, R., Hampel, R., Hauck, M., & Lancaster, L. (2014). What are multimodal data and transcription? In Jewitt, C. (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis (2nd ed., pp. 4459). London, UK: Routledge.
Garcia, O., & Li, W. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gee, J. P. (2013). Good video games and good learning: Collected essays on video games, learning and literacy. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Green, D. W., & Li, W. (2014). A control process model of code-switching. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29 (4), 499511.
Grosjean, F. (2001). The bilingual's language modes. In Nicole, J. (Ed.), One mind, two languages: Bilingual language processing (pp. 122). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Harris, R. (1996). Signs, language and communication: Integrational and segregational approaches. London, UK: Routledge.
Harris, R. (1997). From an integrational point of view. In Wolf, G. & Love, N. (Eds.), Linguistics inside out: Roy Harris and his critics (pp. 229310). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.
Ho, W. Y. (2018). Translanguaging in online language learning: Case studies of self-directed Chinese learning of multilingual adults (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). UCL Institute of Education, University College London, United Kingdom.
Iedema, R. (2003). Multimodality, resemiotization: Extending the analysis of discourse as multi-semiotic practice. Visual Communication, 2 (1), 2957.
Kan, Q., Owen, N., & Bax, S. (2018). Researching mobile-assisted Chinese-character learning strategies among adult distance learners. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 12 (1), 5671.
Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London, UK: Routledge.
Kress, G. (2015). Semiotic work: Applied Linguistics and a social semiotic account of Multimodality. AILA Review, 28, 4971.
Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2007). Mobile usability in educational contexts: What have we learnt? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 8 (2), 116.
Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2009). Will mobile learning change language learning? ReCALL, 21 (2), 157165.
Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2012). Language learning defined by time and place: A framework for next generation designs. In Diaz-Vera, J. (Ed.), Left to my own devices: Learner autonomy and mobile assisted language learning. Innovation and leadership in English language teaching (pp. 113). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.
Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Shield, L. (2008). An overview of mobile assisted language learning: From content delivery to supported collaboration and interaction. ReCALL, 20 (3), 271289.
Li, W. (2011). Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43 (5), 12221235.
Li, W. (2018). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics,39 (2), 930. doi:10.1093/applin/amx039
Lin, A. M., & Lo, Y. Y. (2017). Trans/Languaging and the triadic dialogue in content and language integrated learning (CLIL) classrooms. Language and Education, 31 (1), 2645.
Livingstone, D. W. (2000). Researching expanded notions of learning and work and underemployment: Findings of the first Canadian survey of informal learning practices. International Review of Education, 46 (6), 491514.
Mazak, C. M., & Carroll, K. S. (Eds.). (2016). Translanguaging in higher education: Beyond monolingual ideologies. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Meredith, J. (2016). Transcribing screen-capture data: The process of developing a transcription system for multi-modal text-based data. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 19 (6), 663676.
Moll, L. C. (1992). Bilingual classroom studies and community analysis: Some recent trends. Educational Researcher, 21 (2), 2024.
Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 31 (2), 132141.
Moll, L., & Gonzalez, N. (1994). Lessons from research with language-minority children. Journal of Literacy Research, 26 (4), 439456.
Nikula, T., Dafouz, E., Moore, P., & Smit, U. (Eds.). (2016). Conceptualising integration in CLIL and multilingual education. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Pachler, N., Bachmair, B., & Cook, J. (2010). Mobile learning: Structures, agency, practices. New York, NY: Springer.
Pegrum, M. (2014). Mobile learning: Languages, literacies and cultures. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Reinders, H. (Ed.). (2012). Digital games in language learning and teaching. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. (2004). Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the emerging internet. London, UK: Routledge.
Selwyn, N. (2011). Education and technology: Key issues and debates. London, UK: Continuum.
Shen, H. H. (2005). An investigation of Chinese-character learning strategies among non-native speakers of Chinese. System, 33, 4968.
Steffensen, S. (2011). Beyond mind: An extended ecology of languaging. In Cowley, S. J. (Ed.), Distributed language (pp. 185210). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.
Swain, M. (2006). Languaging, agency and collaboration in advanced second language proficiency. In Byrnes, H. (Ed.), Advanced language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 95108). London, UK: Continuum.
Thibault, P. J. (2011). First-order languaging dynamics and second-order language: The distributed language view. Ecological Psychology, 23 (3), 210245.
Thibault, P. J. (2017). The reflexivity of human languaging and Nigel Love's two orders of language. Language Sciences, 61, 7485.
Thierry, G. (2016). Questions of multi-competence. In Cook, V. & Li, W. (Eds.). The Cambridge handbook of multi-competence (pp.521532). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Williams, C. (1994). Arfarniad o Ddulliau Dysgu ac Addysgu yng Nghyd-destun Addysg Uwchradd Ddwyieithog [An evaluation of teaching and learning methods in the context of bilingual secondary education] (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Wales, Bangor, UL.
Zourou, K. (2012). On the attractiveness of social media for language learning: A look at the state of the art. Alsic, 15 (1). Retrieved from
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Annual Review of Applied Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0267-1905
  • EISSN: 1471-6356
  • URL: /core/journals/annual-review-of-applied-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed