In a growlingly digital world, scholars must understand the changes in textuality and communication associated with Web 2.0 technologies to incorporate potential pedagogical benefits to language curricula. For example, with the affordance of these technologies, language learners (LL) are increasingly exposed to language contact zones found both on and offline. A practice that could potentially support the communicative practices of LL within these multilingual spaces is translanguaging, or the use of strategies employed by LL when engaging with diverse codes by utilizing the resources of their semiotic repertoire as well as their language(s). Previous research has focused principally on contexts of bilingual education and identity formation vis-à-vis translanguaging. Therefore, the present study is the first to examine the actual translanguaging practices of second language (n=5) and heritage language learners (n=5) of Spanish in a digital language contact zone: Facebook affinity spaces, or common interest spaces. The dynamic data gathered from screen capture recordings of the participants’ interactions and think-aloud protocols in the affinity spaces, stimulated recall interviews, and written reflections were analyzed using content analysis and critical discourse analysis.
This analysis revealed key findings in the data that focused on translanguaging practices, negotiation strategies, and performative competence - or the procedural knowledge which focuses on how learners communicate rather than what they communicate. First, the participants displayed a preference toward the separation of languages in written output, adhering to the ideals of linguistic purism, while simultaneously engaging in translanguaging practices via non-linguistic semiotic resources, such as the use of emojis, in their communication. Second, the participants’ self-reported proficiency levels for their writing abilities in Spanish correlated with their use of outside digital resources as a mediation tool. The findings show that, theoretically, the conceptualization of communicative competence must be expanded in order to incorporate the languaging practices of interlocutors in digital contexts. Pedagogically, educators need to support the development of LLs’ digital literacies, or communicative practices that are facilitated by technology, and address the bias toward linguistic purism to help students reap the cognitive benefits offered by translanguaging practices.