Journal for Language Teaching

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Linking mother tongue and English academic literacy courses for epistemic access

Andrea Parmegiani


This paper reports on a mother-tongue based pedagogical initiative aimed at promoting epistemic access among native Spanish speakers attending a community college in the United States. This pedagogical initiative linked English and Spanish academic literacy courses within the framework of a learning community, or clusters of pedagogically integrated courses that students take in the same cohort.

After presenting the political and pedagogical rationale for this program, I will discuss its impact on students’ ability to access knowledge in higher education through the medium of an additional language. This impact will be assessed through a comparative analysis of quantitative academic success indicators combined with qualitative data collected through interviews. The findings show that the link facilitated epistemic access by providing students with an emotionally safe space where they were able to take ownership of their additional language through a higher level of engagement with academic discourse. This greater engagement was made possible by the use of the mother tongue as a resource for self-expression and as a frame of reference.

Keywords: Multilingualism, academic literacy, translanguaging, learning communities, English learners

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