Mapping multilingual identities in teacher education: from language teachers to activists for multilingualism

Nayr Correia Ibrahin

Twenty-first-century classrooms have experienced an unprecedented influx of children from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds with complex language trajectories as a result of transnational mobilities. Making these multi-layered linguistic journeys visible in the classroom contributes to demonolingualising teaching and learning and creates identity-safe, equitable learning spaces. Despite this increased linguistic diversity in society and schools, teachers rarely identify as multilingual due to monolingualizing processes that have structured education systems and ideologies. Also, they are seldom required to reflect on, explore and engage with their own multilingualism, which underpins a subjectively-lived and experiential approach to educating teachers multilingually. Researchers are calling for approaches that give pre- and in-service teachers more opportunities to explore their own perceptions and ideological positionings in relation to translingual practices in order to better support multilingual students in the classroom.

In response to this call, I will explore visual approaches in teacher education, such as visual narratives, language maps, language portrait silhouettes, DLC (dominant language constellation) artefacts and linguistic landscapes. The benefits of visibilizing the full language repertoire include unveiling teachers’ multilingual identities, raising critical awareness of their translingual practices, tracing their language trajectories and confronting their attitudes towards translanguaging practices. These creative processes initiate discussions about linguistically and culturally relevant pedagogy that transforms language teachers, not only into celebrators of named languages but also advocates of and activists for socially just pedagogical practices.


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