Many years ago, I went, as usual, to fetch my children from Swedish Supply School, which met once a week after regular (English-medium) school in Singapore, where our family lived. On that particular occasion, one of the children was especially eager to start telling me all about her day. She spoke Portuguese, this being the language that the children and I have always shared, and she speckled it with so much English and Swedish that I felt compelled to interrupt her. “Querida!”, I giggled, “Que língua é que estás a falar?!” (‘Sweetheart! Which language are you speaking?!’). She stared at me briefly as if I were a clueless alien and then snapped, in squeaky clean Portuguese: “Uma qualquer, para dizer o que eu quero!” (‘Whichever, to say what I want to say!’).

On that particular occasion, one of the children was especially eager to start telling me all about her day.

I was giving evidence that being multilingual, as I am, hadn’t immunised me against the persuasion that languages are objects of reverence: they are there to be respected.

She was giving evidence that being multilingual, as she is, had made it clear to her that languages are tools: they are there to serve our needs.

The question then arises of why we came to talk about a feature of typical multilingualism as ‘mixing’, a word with rather negative undertones.

So why do we go on interpreting multilingual mixes as offending language boundaries?

But translanguaging takes the internal perspective of speakers whose…

Report a problem with this summary