Articles

Translanguaging through Visual Arts in Early Childhood: A Case Study in a Hong Kong Kindergarten

AUTHOR :
Suzannie K. Y. Leung
INFORMATION :
page. 47~67 / 2021 Vol.15 No.3

ABSTRACT

Over the decades, western academic literature has embraced the power of visual arts as the first language with which children connect with the people and environment of their world. However, children in Hong Kong, a multi-cultural region in a Chinese context, have limited experiences in using visual language in the kindergartens due to pre-schools’ academic-oriented atmosphere and focus on primary school readiness. Rather than engaging in visual arts, students are forced to start writing Chinese characters and English alphabets at age four or even younger. Though previous literature has explained that mixing languages in culturally-diverse classrooms has a positive influence on students, the integration of visual language has seldom been studied. This study, conducted through the lens of contemporary linguistics, examines how translanguaging emerged in children’s artworks in four K3 level (aged 5-6) classes in a Hong Kong kindergarten. Altogether, 88 children participated in the study (N = 32 girls and 56 boys), of whom 57 were Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong citizens and the rest were non-Cantonese speaking children (26 Mainland Chinese; two Nepalese; three Pakistanis). Children participants’ artworks were collected from an activity designed by the researcher and, through content analysis, divided into three categories: (1) exploratory experiences; (2) object references; and (3) visual components. These ground-breaking findings indicate that translanguaging does not exist only in verbal languages; the participating children tried to make good use of visual language, along with Chinese and English words they had learnt, to share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings. This study may inspire early childhood educators in culturally diverse region such as Hong Kong to explore how visual arts can help children from diverse backgrounds to express their voices.

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