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Language and Culture: Translingualism

This guide is a resource for faculty and students interested in language justice and its intersection with visual art, design and racial and social justice. These resources were compiled alongside curriculum from the Colloquium for International Graduate Students and the Global Arts continuing education courses that center language and culture in creative practice, aiming for an equitable exchange of strategies and resources across borders. 

Why is Translingualism Important?

Linguistic discrimination is unfair treatment which is based on use of language and characteristics of speech, including first languageaccent, perceived size of vocabulary (whether the speaker uses complex and varied words), modality, and syntax



Logo for Subtitle podcastLanguage unites and divides us. It mystifies and delights us. Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of people with all kinds of linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers; speakers of endangered languages; speakers of multiple languages; and just speakers—people like you and me.

Academic Journal Articles

Newspaper Articles

The "Open Letter"

The form of the "open letter" is relevant to the question of language because language both reflects and constructs ideology. Open letters serve as important cultural documents that artists need to be able to read, understand and possibly emulate as their own form of political expression.

  • Hannah Black's open letter to the Whitney Museum after the 2017 controversy about Dana Schutz's painting 'Open Casket'
  • The open letter signed by 2600 artists and curators (and counting) after the postponement of the Philip Guston retrospective

Looking at the Language of Contemporary Art

What is Translingualism?

An early definition of the Translingual approach was defined in the January 2011 issue of College English as, "see[ing] 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." 

From EAL Journal: What is translanguaging?

" ‘Translanguaging’ – the use of different languages together – can be a powerful tool for learning … but it can also go against the grain for language teachers who are used to supporting learners to master the intricacies of a single language. "

Artists Using Translingualism

Poet Latasha N. Nevada Diggs knows no linguistic border and samples multiple languages in her work highlighting the crossovers and connections that exist in the diverse ways we communicate. 

Language justice comes into play with works that rely on language to make a political statement. Hank Willis-Thomas' 'I Am a Man,' installation revisits the 1968 sanitation worker strike in Memphis. How can these kinds of works be deconstructed in ways that broaden artists' conceptual and practical frameworks for language, justice, and the intersection between them?

20 framed artworks by Hank Willis Thomas

John Cage is an artist who literally and figuratively experiments with composition in his experimental writing practice. 

Relevant Presentations & Documentaries

Language Justice Resources

Online Courses

The free Englishes Massive Open Online Course deals with the language that is used as a medium of expression, mediation and education in artistic practices around the world. Its aim is to emancipate art makers and their audience from having to measure their English along native-like standards in the international realm. 

Global Approaches to Design

Computer Languages

Further Reading

The Politics of Translingualism : After Englishes by Jerry Won Lee 

Craft in the Real World : rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses

Crossing Borders, Making Connections: Interdisciplinarity in Linguistics by Allison Burkette and Tamara Warhol