CLER Seminar Series: “I am because you are”

Multilanguaging and infinite relations of dependency for 21st C language and literacy education.


Professor Leketi Makalela is the director of the Hub for Multilingual Education and Literacies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and distinguished visiting professor at City University of New York. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Southern African Linguistics & Applied Language Studies.

Research on multilingual education is replete with critiques of ways of knowing that are conceived from what is referred to as the “global North”. In particular inherent monolingual and epistemological biases in syllabi and classroom interactions are considered precursors for exposing multilingual students to high risk of failure, educational disadvantage, and limited access to civic opportunities beyond schooling. Despite the chorus of discontent and the expressed desire to transform literacy practices informed by locally grounded epistemologies, there are very few attempts to re-theorize literacy and develop universally relevant models for programmatic scaling in a wide array of contexts.

In this talk, I present a framework for literacy theory and practice based on the African value system of Ubuntu (I x we) and argue for its universality within the scope of translanguaging and what I coined, “multilanguaging”. Showing data from primary schools to university contexts, I will demonstrate that Ubuntu’s infinite relations of dependency principle ("I am because you are”) is unparalleled for transcending boundaries, disrupting orderliness and linearity in complex meaning making processes.

I argue that multilanguaging offers both epistemological and ontological reliefs for learners and students who are wired multilingually. Within this humanistic approach to language and literacy education, I conclude the talk by highlighting applications for multilanguaging in different educational contexts.

This event is open to all, and no registration is required.

Location details

Coach House
School of Education
Hillary Place
University of Leeds

View campus map