Translanguaging for Equal Opportunities: Speaking Romani at School

In Hungary and in Slovakia, several hundreds of thousands of people consider themselves to be Roma. A significant part of this population uses language resources and practices linked to Romani. In both countries, Romani appears at schools merely as a school subject (Romani as a second language, home language, or foreign language) and even in this way it is seldom included in the curriculum at all.
Translanguaging (García 2009) is not only a notion of contemporary sociolinguistics which describes bi- and multilingual ways of speaking, but also a pedagogical approach. By offering a holistic approach to communication (Gorter-Cenoz 2017), translanguaging pedagogy emphasizes the development of the entire and unique linguistic repertoire instead of the development of competences in several languages or varieties.
Our project is to build on approaches laid down in translanguaging research in order to study Romani-speaking children’s linguistic practices in primary school settings and to introduce new pedagogical stance and principles in their education (cf. Wei 2014, 2017; García-Kleyn 2016, García et al 2017, García-Wei 2014, Paulsrud et al 2017, Heltai 2019). The project is carried out in cooperation with University College London, University of Jyväskylä as word-leading centres in translanguaging and research on multilingual education, with the Károli Gáspár University in Budapest, Hungary and the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia as regional and local centres of research in the fields of translanguaging and issues of multilingual education, and from two elementary school institutions from highly disadvantaged schooling areas in Hungary and Slovakia. The aim of our project is to explore the possibilities of integrating the children’s Romani language resources in monolingual primary school settings and curricula. Our approach challenges the tradition which associates school with monolingual and standardized ways of speaking, which dominates discourses of education in Hungary and Slovakia to this day. Instead of developing Hungarian or Romani language skills, our approach supports social equality and competitiveness through the development of the whole repertoire.

Translanguaging (García 2009) is a theoretical and a language policy approach, which offers tools to grasp multilingual practices from a new perspective and to empower non-stantardised bilingual ways of speaking in different oral and written public domains. As a pedagogy with a holistic view of communication (Gorter-Cenoz 2017), translanguaging emphasizes development of the entire and unique linguistic repertoire instead of development of competences in separate standardized languages.

Several millions of people consider themselves in Europe to be Roma. A significant part of this population is bilingual, speaking Romani and particular other languages of their home country. However, Romani appears at schools at most as a school subject (Romani as a home language, or foreign language) and even in this way it is seldom included in the curriculum at all.

Due to the transnational characteristic of Romani (i.e. it is present in several European states) and the lack of a nation-state-like power centre, Romani standardisation has always been problematic. As a Romani standard does not or in a limited way improves social competitiveness in the given state, people aren’t interested in its acquisition (Busch 2012). Consequently, approaches of standardisation (mostly on a national level) spread standard ideology but not standard resources (Abercrombie 2018). In this way, local Romani ways of speaking have a low prestige and are marginalized.

Translanguaging, emphasizing the development of the unitary linguistic repertoire instead of named languages or varieties, opens new possibilities in the education of Romani speaking students. The project “Translanguaging Classroom Communication and Effective Learning Organisation in Tiszavasvári”, based on emerging translanguaging research worldwide and running since 2016, breaks with one-language-in-one-lesson ideologies and brings non-standardised Romani ways of speaking into everyday learning activities.

In our view, translanguaging as pedagogical orientation is successful when corresponds with appropriate learning organisation solutions. The project outputs, (e-book about translanguaging orientation and best-practices-videos) help teacher trainees to grasp translanguaging classroom moments and to show how they can utilize translanguaging as practice in everyday situations. They show in a short and concise way translanguaging with related good practices of the organisation of learning. Explanations and interpretations help teacher trainees to to acquire translanguaging orientation in its wholeness