Translanguaging-to-Learn During Collaborative Dialogue in Task-Based Interaction

The Potential of Utilizing Arabic as a Heritage Language for Additional Language Learning


  • Hanna Lämsä-Schmidt University of Potsdam


translanguaging, sociocultural theory, collaborative dialogue, collective scaffolding, young learners, Arabic as a heritage language, English as an additional language, L1/L2 use


While the linguistic diversity in European societies is increasing, language policies enforced in schools remain largely monolingual (Yağmur & Extra, 2011, p. 1193). Increasing number of children today speak Arabic as a heritage language (HL) at home, but they are commonly not allowed to use these languages in their learning processes at schools in Germany (Auer & Wei, 2007, p. 5). The monolingual school reality posits a serious challenge to the maintenance of children’s HL. Hence, the present study investigated how learners use their existing linguistic repertoire when translanguaging-to-learn during task-based peer interaction (Cenoz & Gorter, 2021).

In this longitudinal multiple-case study, two speakers of Arabic engaged in problem-solving tasks in the foreign language (FL) classroom at two points in time: Time 1 as 8-year-olds and Time 2 as 11-year-olds, i.e. at a time close to the arrival in the host country and 3 years later. In this way the study investigates how the learners use their HL, next to the L2 German and the FL English, as a tool for learning, building on Vygotskyan sociocultural theory (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; Vygotsky, 1987).

The results show a dynamic change in learners’ language use, as HL use plays a dominant role as the main mediating tool in the interaction at Time 1, next to the FL, but disappears from the learner interaction after 3 years at Time 2, replaced by the L2 German. While both languages are used respectively (L1 at time 1 and L2 at Time 2) for scaffolding and for solving target-language-related linguistic problems, the use of the HL enables learners to engage in a more collaborative patterns of learning, whereas the L2 use at Time 2 is connected patterns involving less equality and mutuality, the more proficient learner appropriating the task resolution  (Storch 2002). Hence, the use of the HL appears essential for collaborative patterns of interaction especially when one of the learners is at low levels of L2 and TL proficiency. Translanguaging-to-learn therefore offers the possibility for learners to use their HL as a mediational means for learning, even when the HL use seems to be replaced by the L2 in the long run.

Author Biography

Hanna Lämsä-Schmidt, University of Potsdam

Hanna Lämsä-Schmidt holds a MA in English Philology from the University of Tampere, Finland and is currently working as a lecturer at the Department of English Language Education at the University of Potsdam, Germany. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Potsdam and her research focuses on Vygotskyan sociocultural theory and translanguaging with young foreign language learners and heritage language speakers. For her PhD research she was awarded the Junior Researcher LAB (Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism) award for the most promising Ph.D. project at the EuroSLA conference in 2021.