Translanguaging and Public Service Encounters: Language Learning in the Library



Creese A & Blackledge A (2019) Translanguaging and Public Service Encounters: Language Learning in the Library. The Modern Language Journal, 103 (4), pp. 800-814.

This article explores the information desk of a city library as a site for language learning. Using a linguistic ethnographic approach, the interactions between a customer experience and information assistant and the many library users who approach her information desk were analysed. Findings are that, in addition to providing information about library resources, information desks are sites at which bits and pieces of different languages are taught and learned. Such language teaching and learning episodes created interactions of inclusion and welcome that went far beyond purely transactional information. Rather, language‐related episodes created moments of human contact and engagement, which were upheld through the translanguaging practices of interactants, the disposition and workplace competence of library staff, and the spatial ecology of the information desk. Furthermore, the article contributes to ongoing theoretical debates about translanguaging by noting that normativity and pressure toward uniformity are as much a part of languaging processes as creativity and flexibility. Our definition of translanguaging recognises the opposing pull of centrifugal and centripetal forces. The article ends by asking what schools, and language education, might learn from public libraries in creating arenas that maintain communitarianism, diversity of expression, and the development of civic skills.

translanguaging; spatial repertoire; materiality; disposition; competence;

The Modern Language Journal: Volume 103, Issue 4

FundersArts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date31/12/2019
Publication date online11/11/2019
Date accepted by journal21/06/2019

People (2)


Professor Adrian Blackledge
Professor Adrian Blackledge

Professor in Education, Education

Professor Angela Creese
Professor Angela Creese

Professor in Education, Education