Delinking from the Coloniality of Language in Southern educational settings with speaker Carolyn McKinney (MOSAIC Seminar)

Wednesday 30 March 2022 (16:00-17:00)

Dr Eleni Mariou

MOSAIC Group for Research on Multilingualism Seminar Series 2021-22

Speaker: Carolyn McKinney, Associate Professor, University of Cape Town

This presentation explores the challenges of the coloniality of language as well as describing languaging in education settings of the South. Carolyn shows how colonial language ideologies continue to exclude African language resources and multilingualism in African languages from formal education settings. Anglonormativity, or the expectation that all students will be(come) proficient in monolingual English is pervasive across curriculum and assessment policy in South Africa, despite the multilingual languaging that characterizes everyday life. She argues that the appeal of a concept like translanguaging in the South has been the potential it offers for disrupting monoglossic language ideologies. Some have argued that translanguaging is yet another ‘Northern concept’ inappropriately taken up in the South. Others have critiqued claims of translanguaging as a liberatory practice.

While translanguaging has significant transformative and emancipatory potential, no language practice is inherently transformative. Drawing on the decolonial concept of pluriversality, she argues for recognising both the fluidity and fixity of language practices in pedagogical contexts along with explicit teaching of the relationships between language and power that produce racialized hierarchies of language.

In the second part of the presentation Carolyn will share a case study of early language and literacy teacher education at an elite South African university in which the coloniality of language was deliberately disrupted. She aims to show how the integration of learning about language ideologies and coloniality of language with translanguaging and whole-body sense-making (Lin, 2019) can enable the design of critical pedagogical translanguaging practice. In demonstrating the power of multilingual languaging and the limits of English monolingualism in a teacher education setting, the goal is to move beyond the mere recognition or even embracing of linguistic diversity in the journey towards mastery of standard English. Through the linguistic ethnographic case study, she argues that flexible languaging for learning as well as the use of ‘named’ languages is indispensable to participation in knowledge-making. The presentation draws on our recently published book Decoloniality, Language and Literacy: Conversations with Teacher Educators (2022, Multilingual Matters).


Carolyn McKinney is Associate Professor in Language Education at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Carolyn’s teaching and research focuses on language ideologies; multilingualism as a resource for learning; critical literacy and the relationships between language, identity/subjectivity and learning. She published Language and Power in Post-Colonial Schooling: Ideologies in Practice (2017, Routledge) and recently Decoloniality, Language and Literacy: Conversations with Teacher Educators (co-edited with Pam Christie, Multilingual Matters, 2022). She is a founding member of the bua-lit language and literacy collective

All welcome at this free seminar. Those who register will be sent details of the link to zoom in their confirmation email. 

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities