Linguistic landscapes and translanguaging in Aotearoa (New Zealand), by Corinne A. Seals

Tēnā koutou from Aotearoa New Zealand! Дякую to LoCALL for the opportunity to share the Wellington Translanguaging Project and our resource branch Translanguaging Aotearoa with you all.

In 2016, I established the Wellington Translanguaging Project with Dr. Vincent Ieni Olsen-Reeder (Associate Investigator on the Project) with the goal of supporting Māori and Samoan children in maintaining their heritage languages, which are considered a taonga (a treasure) in Aotearoa. To support these tamariki, we worked with local Māori and Samoan communities at early childhood education centres – a puna reo and an a’oga amata, specifically. We collected over 600 hours of ethnographic data, including audio, video, and linguistic landscapes images. My team and I then analysed this data to find how translanguaging is naturally used in interaction and in the linguistic landscapes of these centres.

Translanguaging (originally trawsieithu (Williams, 1997)) is a paradigm shift in applied linguistics (Canagarajah, 2017; Cenoz & Gorter, 2017; García & Wei, 2014; Olsen-Reeder & Seals, 2019). Broadly, “translanguaging seeks to address language learning, teaching, and analysis from a perspective closer to how language is used naturally by multilinguals in everyday settings” (Seals, forthcoming 2020, p. 4). Translanguaging can be defined and discussed as a theory of language, an analytical approach to studying language, and a pedagogical approach. In all ways, “translanguaging is a macro lens through which language use can be viewed that acknowledges all parts of the linguistic repertoire as connect and equally valid. It is a position actively aligned with critical pedagogy, seeking to adjust how language is viewed to in turn question the larger power structures associated with language teaching, learning, and use” (Seals, forthcoming 2020, p. 4).

In the Wellington Translanguaging Project, we seek to identify in what ways translanguaging naturally occurs in the va of educational centres – that is, in the spaces, which includes the spaces and relationships between people and between people and the environment around them. In this way, we are looking at how meaning is made and negotiated through interaction between people and interaction within the linguistic landscape. This type of pregunta led us to uncover the importance of the multimodal linguistic landscape, which aligns with translanguaging porque “language [is seen as] a multisensory and multimodal semiotic system interconnected with other identifiable but inseparable cognitive systems” (Wei, 2017, p. 20). Examples of translanguaging in the multimodal linguistic landscape of an a’oga amata are given below:

In the above examples (detailed in Seals, forthcoming 2020), there are both textual and graphic instances of Samoan, Māori, and New Zealand English language and culture. Furthermore, these instances are presented as interwoven, both within the text (e.g. interweaving of te reo Māori and Samoan in the first image, and interweaving of Samoan and English in the second image, amongst other examples in both images), and within the graphics (e.g. traditional Indigenous symbolism from Samoa and from Aotearoa’s Māori next to each other in the first image). This presence of translanguaging throughout the multimodal linguistic landscape sends the message that translanguaging, transculturalism, and the social justice principles underlying them have a kāinga amongst these tamaiti and their faiā’oga.

We then apply the information we’ve gained through our community-based analysis to the creation of Translanguaging Aotearoa educational materials to further these practices. The communities we work with have a say in the entire process, respecting their mana and mātauranga. We create materials that are useful to them and that help the faiā’oga to actively teach the focus reo and accompanying tikanga to their tamariki as well as the students’ other languages and cultural practices.

To see some of the posters and books we’ve created to-date, please check out the Translanguaging Aotearoa website at

10.10.2020, Corinne A. Seals, Victoria University of Wellington


Canagarajah, S. (2017). Translingual practice as spatial repertoires: Expanding the paradigm beyond structuralist orientations. Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 31-54.

Cenoz, J., & Gorter, D. (2017). Minority languages and sustainable translanguaging: Threat or opportunity? Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38(10), 901-912.

García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Olsen-Reeder, V., & Seals, C.A. (2019). Introducing the volume: The value of translanguaging. In C.A. Seals & V. Olsen-Reeder (Eds.), Embracing Multilingualism across Educational Contexts (pp. 11-22). Wellington: Victoria University Press.

Seals, C.A. (Forthcoming, 2020). Classroom translanguaging through the linguistic landscape. In D. Malinowski, H.H. Maxim, & S. Dubreil (Eds.), Language Teaching in the Linguistic Landscape: Mobilizing pedagogy in public space (29 pp.). New York: Springer.

Wei, L. (2017). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 9-30.

Williams, C. (1997). Bilingual teaching in further education: Taking stock. Bangor: Canolfan Bedwyr, University of Wales.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: