Translanguaging in a Chinese-English bilingual education programme: a university-classroom ethnography

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Since 2001, Chinese–English bilingual education has been officially promoted in many universities in mainland China. It has, however, recently been criticised for not only failing to improve students’ English proficiency, but also impeding subject knowledge learning. Drawing on ethnographic data collected through classroom observations, interviews and fieldwork notes, this study examines the practices of bilingual education in an undergraduate Business Management Programme in one university. The study reveals that translanguaging is a prominent phenomenon in almost all subject courses in the programme. The translanguaging practices can be largely grouped into four categories: bilingual label quest, simultaneous code-mixing, cross-language recapping, and dual-language substantiation. The study further identifies supportiveness and freedom of context as two major forces that spurred the practices of translanguaging in the programme. The study concludes by arguing that an ideological reorientation towards flexible bilingualism is emerging in such BE contexts, which might be a favourable move away from the monolingual stereotype manifested in the traditional teaching-English-as-a-foreign-language and content-subject courses that envision English-medium instruction. A translanguaging perspective might give the current practices of BE due recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-337
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number3
Early online date27 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Chinese universities
  • EMI
  • Translanguaging
  • bilingual education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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