Language alternation practices in Arabic-English online language learning exchanges: How translanguaging enriches interaction and creates involvement
The meanings and uses of the terms codeswitching and translanguaging in relation to multilingual contexts have become increasingly hazy and contentious. This study empirically addresses this tension by examining video-based interactions of advanced Arabic and English language students engaged in collaborative online learning. It demonstrates how translanguaging captures fluid aspects of the merging of different linguistic and cultural resources that cannot be adequately described as codeswitching (e.g., Li Wei 2018) by drawing on Gumperz's (1982) concept of contextualization cues, theorizing on dialogue and intertextuality in discourse (e.g., Bakhtin 1981, 1986; Kristeva 1986; LaScotte and Tarone 2019), and Tannen's (2007) understanding of how repetition and constructed dialogue create interpersonal involvement.I analyze data drawn from a semester-long, video-mediated eTandem project involving Arabic learners in the U.S. and English learners in Jordan who engaged in dyadic weekly sessions via Skype. Three focal dyads were selected based on advanced target language fluency and shared Arabic dialects (the Arabic learners had each completed a study-abroad program and had familiarity with a local dialect). Arabic diglossia (Ferguson 1959) increased the accessible communicative resources in this bilingual eTandem context.My study captures how the students intertextually utilize language and cultural resources in skillful and meaningful ways in dyadic and sometimes triadic encounters. While bilingual and bidialectal codeswitching were evident, the students also displayed fluid and dynamic language practices best described as translanguaging. I first show how various contextualization cues – including merging Arabic phonetic features with English words, repetition, laughter, smile voice, volume, and prosody – signal double-voicing (Bakhtin 1984) and constitute creative and playful translanguaging. Next, my examination of the Islamic expression inshallah ('God willing') uncovers and explicates its frequent use by L2 Arabic students within Arabic and English speech by drawing on Becker's (1994) notion of prior texts. Finally, I demonstrate how in triadic encounters involving Jordanian students' family members, translanguaging practices reframe (Tannen 2006) task-based talk into sociable talk and shift the exchange's multimodal configuration. This study demonstrates how the students' utilization of linguistic, multimodal, and cultural resources constitutes translanguaging, enriches their interactions in terms of language input and creativity, and creates involvement.
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