As writing classrooms become more multicultural, a shift in composition pedagogy has become necessary. Recently, translingual writing has offered instructors a pedagogical approach to help students compose within the means available to them. It calls for writing teachers to accept and promote language variety (Lu and Horner 585). "This approach thus calls for more, not less, conscious and critical attention to how writers deploy diction, syntax, and style, as well as form, register,
and media. It acknowledges that deviations from dominant expectations need not be
errors; that conformity need not be automatically advisable; and that writers’ purposes
and readers’ conventional expectations are neither fixed nor unified" (Horner et al. 304). In other words, language boundaries are never fixed. Translingual writing invites students to compose outside the lines of standard academic English, creating and making use of new rhetorical tools to effectively communicate with an audience, and begin to fit into a community, which often alienates writers who do not compose in the style traditionally accepted by the academy.
One common strategy in translingual writing that students may use is code-meshing. Rather than having students switch back and forth from their native language and Standard English, code-meshing invites them to create hybrid or blended texts. According to Michael-Luna and Canagarajah, “…Code-meshing is a social practice which intentionally integrates local and academic discourse in order to index specific discourse, ideological, and rhetorical stances of the interlocutor” (57). Recently there has been a great deal of research about code-meshing in multimodal compositions.
Indeed, Lee teaches code-meshing through multimodal compositions, specifically digital literacy narratives and audio interviews (321-22). Laverick also asks ELLs to code-mesh in digital narratives in which they blend languages using audio, visuals, and written texts. And Fraiberg asks students code-mesh when creating multimodal compositions as a means for “seeking assistance from native speakers of other languages to perform rhetorical and situated analyses…” (111).
Finally, Canagarajah conducted an ethnography, investigating how second language writing teachers code-mesh in literacy autobiographies. Canagarajah analyzed the students’ code-meshing choices that emerged in their literacy autobiographies and discovered students employ four common strategies when code-meshing. First, students used “envoicing” to combine semiotics and explore and/or present themselves to an audience. For example, students adopted or brought in nonverbal codes such as pictures and other images from their home countries into their texts. “Recontextualization” strategies helped students frame texts by negotiating for meaning with an audience, and “interactional” strategies helped facilitate co-construction of meaning in which audience members are encouraged to actively participate and engage in reading the literacy autobiographies to understand concepts or ideas from the students’ native cultures and languages. Finally, “entextualization” helped students construct their voices and create meaning in texts by using their native languages. Canagarajah did not teach students these code-meshing strategies. Instead, he was a facilitator in the students’ processes of creating their literacy autobiographies, guiding them in their rhetorical choices of how and when to code-mesh. Thus the strategies students employed were organic and self-created (50).
As a writing teacher, I value Canagarajah's use of multimodal compositions to encourage code-meshing, especially because multimodal compositions help students create meaning, which span across linguistic and cultural boundaries (Takayoshi and Selfe). Also, multimodal compositions offer ELLs additional rhetorical tools for communicating with an audience. Rather than solely depending on the written word, students may use audio and images with written text to communicate their ideas. Shin and Cimasko argue multimodal composition provide ELLs with “powerful tools for sharing knowledge and self-expression” (377). Thus code-meshing within multimodal compositions benefits ELLs twofold. 1). They can blend their native languages with English. 2). They can use images to communicate with an audience. Building off Canagarajah’s study, I sought to learn how students use the code-meshing strategies Canagarajah presents in his scholarship.