Translanguaging and the Bilingual Brain

In the bilingual language processing system the two language channels interact with one another which can lead to cases of one or the other language becoming more dominant, switching between two languages, and modifications of linguistic forms (Kecskes and Papp 2000). The umbrella term I shall use to describe this mixing of two separate languages is translanguaging which Canagarajah defines as “the ability of multilingual speakers to shuttle between languages, treating the diverse languages that form their repertoire as an integrated system” (2011: 401). The difference between translanguaging and code-switching is that code-switching assumes that the bilingual has two separate monolingual codes corresponding to each of their two languages that can be used without reference to each other. Translanguaging, on the other hand, indicates that bilinguals have a single linguistic system from which they select lexical, syntactic and pragmatic features in order to communicate more effectively (Celic and Seltzer 2011). Likewise, there is evidence that supports how translanguaging is beneficial for language acquisition and ease of communication because individuals are able to express themselves more freely in an environment such as the classroom (Garcia 2009).

The main research question is as follows: if competency in two languages enables the bilingual to process information more efficiently whilst filtering out what is unnecessary and outperforming monolinguals in tasks that measure attention span control when using L1 or L2 in monolinguistic communication, how would this compare to when the bilinguals are faced with translingual reading comprehension? The data shall be obtained using the SMI RED 250 Eyetracker at the Heidelberg University Language and Cognition Lab to measure the sentence processing of bilinguals and how comprehending monolingual and translingual texts may impact working memory.

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