Do you consider yourself brave? Yes?! But are you brave enough to challenge, or even defy, well-established social norms? Maybe, but which ones exactly, you’re probably wondering. How about this one – a bilingual is two or more monolinguals in one and their languages are always clashing? Interesting, isn’t it?! That is why we need to talk about one of my favourite topics – translanguaging. Translanguaging provides us with insights into the ways a bilingual brain works and how we can use these processes for learning and communication. What does translanguaging have to do with social norms? Let’s explore it together.

Children first experience language at home, where they also start the acquisition process. No matter how different parental attitudes on raising children are, caregivers all align on one aspect – they all want their children to be successful at school – and mastering the school language on an academic level is indispensable in fulfilling that aim. Therefore, a Family Language Plan is one of your best tools to help your children. Family plays a critical role in language integration – both in the home and in the school language. Parental beliefs and attitudes about language learning and acquisition as well as bilingualism lead caregivers to choose certain approaches and practices while vehemently rejecting others, which ultimately impacts children’s language evolution and consequently – academic achievement.

Image by Gordon Johnson

One language strategy that has been considered the golden standard when it comes to raising bilingual children and has been widely recommended for quite some time is One Parent One Language (OPOL). By having a strict allocation of languages, it prompts for correction and requires children to separate their languages. But is this always the right way to go? Indeed, it could be a suitable and useful approach when our children are young, but, once they start school, keeping up with it would become increasingly demanding. It might even be insufficient, and overall lacking, to fully support home-language development. Children’s interests, hobbies and social circles change. They become disinterested in anything beyond that, especially if it is not part of their school requirements. Hands down, it could be a nerve-wrecking experience for caregivers who grapple to find ways to keep their children interested in maintaining the home language and literacy in it. Please, don’t get me wrong – there is need and purpose to each method we can employ at home when raising bilingual children. However, when our children grow and the family dynamic changes, so should we as parents. We need to adapt to the new requirements and integrate new language solutions in our Family Language Policy because maintaining the home language will ultimately contribute to acquiring mature skills in the school language as well. But how?

One way to do that is to turn to more flexible language approaches which defy the standard that bilinguals are simply two (or more) monolinguals in one. Such ‘rebellious’ routes lay out a person’s languages on a continuum, supporting and reinforcing each other, rather than in bubbles – fighting for dominance and taking over each other’s territory as soon as one becomes more powerful. You might be rather skeptical right now. I can almost see you, sitting there, raising your eyebrows and trying to make sense of this idea. I completely understand – it probably sounds unconventional. The belief that if you consider yourself bilingual, you should be monolingually ‘perfect’ in all your languages is very deeply anchored in society. And if we want our children to achieve that, we should be strict, avoid mixing languages, constantly reminding them when they respond in the ‘wrong’ language. Anything different might generate confusion, robbing them of exclusive time dedicated to the home language that is sparse anyway.

Image by Katerina Holmes

So, let’s burst the norm’s bubble, shall we? Translanguaging allows us to understand how a bilingual speaker’s languages work together to help and enhance development. A lot of recent research has shown translanguaging helps us understand that when bilinguals communicate, they don’t just use one of their languages, but rather – navigate among all their languages, taking advantage of all their resources to learn and convey meaning. The key idea behind it is that languages are interdependent, they complement and support each other. What does this mean when it comes to learning the school language? Simply that you should try to use your children’s full spectrum of language knowledge, rather than disconnecting and isolating the single languages. Skills and concept knowledge are transferrable, and you can use the home language to help your children learn how to read or understand content at school, for example. Thus, making translanguaging an empowering tool, enabling children to learn, communicate meaning and make sense of their world as bilinguals, without seeing their languages as separate entities, but rather – as one resource they can tap in order to thrive.

So, are you ready to part with the deeply anchored idea that languages are separate in the mind, competing with each other, fighting for dominance and mental space? We need a shift in perception – how we view language, how we relate to and understand bilingualism. Are you ready to push the boundaries and challenge the norm? Are you ready to let your children use the full spectrum of their (linguistic) resources and be an active part of it?

Tell us what you think! Have you maybe used this approach at home already? If so, how? We would love to hear about your experiences.

Can parents who do not speak the school language also apply translanguaging at home? Indeed, they can! Follow this space for more on the topic, including practical examples of how to translanguage at home. I will tell you how we do it.

In the meantime, make sure to check out this great video that Eowyn has created, explaining the basics of translanguaging! (


  • Crisfield, E. (2021) Bilingual families. A practical language planning guide. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Li, W. (2011) ‘Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain’, Journal of Pragmatics, 43(2011), pp.1222-1235.
  • Wilson, S. (2021) ‘To mix or not to mix: Parental attitudes towards translanguaging and language management choices’, International Journal of Bilingualism, 25(1), pp.58-76.

Image by Diana Parkhouse on