Placing a Piece of the Puzzle: Translingualism and International Deaf Writers

Manako Yabe is a PhD candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her biographical article, “The Journey of a Deaf Translingual Writer” was published by the Writing on the Edge in the Spring 2018 issue.

 

My participation in the 2018 Canadian Writing Centres Association Conference (CWCA) was like a putting the pieces of a puzzle together. I am an international Deaf student who has been to writing centers for more than a decade. As a Deaf writer, I was honored to share my story at the CWCA conference. I was also excited to meet writing center professionals and learn about the writing centers in Canada.

When I participated in the conference, the Keynote speaker was Dr. Sheelah McLean—a co-founder of the Idle No More movement. As I listened to Dr. McLean speak, I realized that there were commonalities between Indigenous students and Deaf students.

Historically, many Ingenious students grew up by attending White-centered schools, trying to assimilate into the White-centered culture, speaking standard English, and behaving like White people. The use of Indigenous language was banned by residential schools. In the same way, many Deaf students grew up attending mainstream schools without accommodation, trying to assimilate into hearing culture, speaking orally, and trying to behave like hearing people. The use of sign language was banned at mainstream schools.

When I wrote an essay about Deaf people, I was often asked to affix a lower case ‘d’ to the term “deaf people,” which signified a person’s inability to hear. However, I was asked not to affix a capital letter ‘D’ to the term “Deaf people” although it signified persons who identified with Deaf culture. This was an example of cultural repression because my editors were not familiar with Deaf culture, and the differences between people who are culturally Deaf people and those people who are non-culturally deaf people. This experience is similar to that experienced by Ingenious students who were often asked to fix their Indigenous language to conform to standard English, because of lack of cultural linguistic awareness and hundreds of year of cultural repression and genocide.

In my round-table discussion, I discussed the concept of translingualism. The term translingual originated from Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach (Horner et al, 2011)—which states, in part, “this approach sees difference in language not as a barrier to overcome or as a problem to manage, but as a resource for producing meaning in writing, speaking, reading, and listening” (p. 303). Although many scholars have addressed translingualism for multilingual speakers, little attention has been paid to multilingual signers. Since the translingual approach could be beneficial for indigenous student writers, I argued for the inclusion of “signing” in this definition as well, since because a translingual approach could also apply to Deaf writers. Continue reading “Placing a Piece of the Puzzle: Translingualism and International Deaf Writers”

Toward an Anti-Racist, Translingual Writing Center

Dr. Karen-Elizabeth Moroski is the Co-Curricular Programs Coordinator for Writing and Languages at Penn State University, University Park Campus. Her research interests span affective neuroscience, trauma studies, queer theory, and writing studies—really, she loves the intersections of critical theory and embodiment. Karen’s particularly interested in how Writing Centers can work to engage/combat/heal the lives writers live before, during, and after their writing process: can we heal trauma through writing? She’s an Associate Editor for WAC Clearinghouse, serves on Executive Board for the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association, and was recently appointed to co-lead the first-ever International Writing Center Association Digital Content Team. Residing in Pine Grove Mills, PA, with her wife and their badly-behaved cats (Tag and Samoa), Karen loves riding her bike and singing out of tune.

 

Before I Begin…
I’d like to own that much of this post is a narration of a person journey wherein my experience is what’s being centered—though the issues challenging me throughout the post are areas of scholarship (and, yes, life) that can and should be centered in their own right whenever possible. I am conscious that this blog post may feel like “Here’s a white person explaining their whiteness, and how they’re challenging themselves to change”—and maybe it is that, in a way—but my pedagogical and intentional reason for crafting my post this way is to show an evolution of thought, self-reflection, and to model the type of calling out that more white academics and administrators need to do with ourselves and with one another.

I’m writing with full acknowledgement that my whiteness, my privilege, and my context have shaped how I interpret, express, and address the information I’m sharing—and that it’s scholars of color, not white allies or accomplices, who have done the most powerful and productive work on pushing the fields of rhetoric, composition, and writing center studies towards anti-racism and equity. (And I’ve included endnote references throughout to share moments of connection with my musings here today and the scholarship that informs them, as a blog post isn’t perhaps the best genre to go full-on, MLA8 in-text on ya’ll.)

Dr. Karen-Elizabeth Moroski

I’m grateful to scholars like Vershawn Ashante Young,[i] Suresh Canagarajah,[ii] Asao Inoue,[iii] Aja Martinez,[iv] bell hooks,[v] and others who have given again and again the opportunity for white academics to learn from their work and to then act upon that learning. I write that sentence while wishing that the academy did not require scholars of color to write about and defend the dignity of their identities so that we could use their scholarship as teaching tools. That said, again, I want to express gratitude that it is work many scholars of color have done and continue doing as that work has challenged and engaged an entire field of study.

I am a work in progress; the writing center where I hang my hat is a work in progress; we hope to keep learning more and doing better, and we wish we were faster at that process.

Let’s Get To It, Then.
I’ve been thinking a lot about translingualism and writing centers. I’ve been wondering what I mean (or should mean) when I say translingual, and I’ve been wondering how the answers to this question shape how I write about it, how I ask my tutors to engage with it, and how our writing center can explain its investment in translingual pedagogy to the university community. I’m wondering, too, how my context as a white academic person shapes these questions and their answers. At Penn State, we’ve been working on a grant proposal to create a Scholar in Residence for Translingual Learning and Tutoring, seeking to unite our language and writing tutoring programs to more effectively serve translingual writers—and over time, our writing center administration’s definition of translingualism has shifted from solely focusing on global languages and global Englishes to a wider, more equitable lens that embraces domestic Englishes, too. Continue reading “Toward an Anti-Racist, Translingual Writing Center”