From Pluricentricity to Translingual Transcultural Competence

Shifting Paradigms

  • Claudia Kunschak Ritsumeikan university
Keywords: translingual, transcultural, pluricentricity, post-native-speakerism, superdiversity


Foreign language educators have always had to make decisions on which window on the world of language to present to their students. One such decision concerns the inclusion – or not – of regional variation into their teaching. While teachers may rely on their own linguistic background, experience, or knowledge with particular national standards or local varieties, conceptual grounding can help them make informed decisions. Pluricentricity (Clyne 1992; Muhr 2016) has provided such grounding by illustrating and systematizing the geographical, sociocultural and sociopolitical aspects of language variation on both the national and the regional level. However, in this age of transnational movements of people and resulting superdiversity of linguistic patterns, where learners are confronted with multiple levels of variation, an approach that focuses on learners’ perception, reflection, and agency may prove more beneficial. Translingual and transcultural competence as proposed by the Modern Language Association (MLA 2007) provides such a scaffolding by emphasizing the in-betweenness, critical reflectivity, and social sensibility needed in today’s globalized society. This paper will trace the development from variation-oriented approaches to learner-oriented approaches, provide illustrative empirical data from three educational sites of intersecting pluricentricities, and suggest the adoption of translingual and transcultural competence as a guiding paradigm in language teaching.

Author Biography

Claudia Kunschak, Ritsumeikan university

Claudia Kunschak (MA in Translation & Interpreting, University of Vienna; PhD in Education, University of Arizona) is professor of English language education at the College of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. Over the years, she has taught at universities in Austria, China, Japan, Scotland, Spain, Ukraine and the US. Her research interests have always tried to bridge language in society with language in the classroom. She is currently engaged in a grant project on the development of translingual and transcultural competence in international education. Locally, she is collaborating on adapting components of the new Companion Volume to the CEFR for use at her home institution. Her teaching responsibilities include Academic Skills in an EMI program, a CLIL class on Social Movements, Academic Writing for (International) Graduate Students and English for International Studies (Listening/Speaking).