‘Keeping home languages out of the classroom’

Multilingual international students’ perceptions of translingualism in an online college composition class


  • Qianqian Zhang-Wu Northeastern University




international students, translingualism, higher education, multilingual writing, language ideology, online instruction


Despite the growing cultural and linguistic diversity, monolingual ideologies are still rampant in American higher education. As an effort to decentre English-only, translingualism is gaining momentum in US college composition studies. Yet, existing research on translingual writing at the tertiary level remains largely conceptual and focused on in-person teaching contexts. Focusing on an argumentative essay unit in an asynchronous online writing class designed specifically for first-year multilingual international students, this exploratory qualitative study seeks to answer: (1) How did the participants perceive home language usage in American higher education? (2) How, if at all, did they put translingual writing into practice in the online writing class? Drawing upon analysis of students’ online discussion board posting, responding and their argumentative essays, the study indicates that most multilingual international students were predisposed with an English-superiority fallacy and argued that home languages should be kept out of the college classrooms. While most of the class chose to resort to English in their academic writing, several students enacted translingualism and code-meshed with their home languages to serve different purposes. This study sheds light on the complexity and dynamics of multilingual students’ translingual written practices online and points out directions for future research.

Author Biography

Qianqian Zhang-Wu, Northeastern University

Qianqian Zhang-Wu is Assistant Professor of English and Director of Multilingual Writing at Northeastern University. Her research focuses on multilingualism, multiliteracies and TESOL. Zhang-Wu is author of the book Languaging myths and realities (Multilingual Matters, 2021). Her work appears in TESOL Quarterly, TESOL Journal, College English, Composition Forum, Journal of Education, Journal of International Students and Journal of Second Language Writing, among others.


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How to Cite

Zhang-Wu, Q. (2022). ‘Keeping home languages out of the classroom’: Multilingual international students’ perceptions of translingualism in an online college composition class. Journal of Multilingual Theories and Practices, 3(1), 146–168. https://doi.org/10.1558/jmtp.21280