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Southern Cross academic shares innovative bilingual teaching methods in global forum


22 June 2022

Southern Cross academic Dr Sally Ashton-Hay is passionate about delivering better education to bilingual students. Now she’s sharing her knowledge across a global community of colleagues with an innovative language teaching method centred on ‘translanguaging’.

As part of the Virtual English Language Specialist Program – a partnership with the US Department of State and US Embassy in Estonia – Dr Ashton-Hay recently delivered a virtual presentation at a global Languages, Cultures and Ethnos conference for English language teachers on translanguaging as well as virtual teacher training sessions to pre-service education students and their lecturers.

Translanguaging is a novel teaching method used to support bilingual Southern Cross students studying Southern Cross business curriculum in China.

Dr Ashton-Hay was selected for the Virtual English Language Specialist project following the publication of her and colleagues’ work on the topic last year in the Journal of International Education in Business.

Dr Ashton-Hay said more than 180 people attended her virtual presentations.

“They were interested in translanguaging as a topic, but also how it could be implemented. What it meant, what it involved, where it’s being done in the world, and how they could apply it in their context,” she said.

Dr Ashton-Hay said an important translanguaging strategy for the work done in China involved the bilingual students developing a collaborative glossary.

“We had the English term, and the students came to an agreement in groups of what would be the best translation for sustainability or sustainable business management. And they would use it in a sentence in English and Chinese,” Dr Ashton-Hay said.

“And so, by building this glossary, they got to know about the terms and they talked about them, learned them, and they could refer to that as a learning artefact.”

Dr Ashton-Hay said other translanguaging strategies allowed students to choose which language they would like to communicate in online, and problem-solving activities.

She said she received positive feedback for both her virtual presentation and teacher training sessions, with the US Department of State now taking steps to publish her presentation.

“It was professionally exhilarating. It’s a highlight of my career, I’d have to say,” she said.

The project is one of around 200 projects funded each year by the US Department of State. The English Language Specialist Program aims to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad.

Dr Ashton-Hay said her passion for teaching English to non-English speakers stems from wanting to see students of diverse backgrounds thrive in a classroom setting.

After completing a teaching degree in English Language Arts, she completed a Master of Education Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and then a PhD in Education.

“It just seemed that there was more and more diversity in classes. And many people didn’t know how to teach those students,” she said. “I had a heart for it and wanted to see them succeed.”