Since October 2016, a team of doctoral and regular students, led by János Imre Heltai (assistant professor at Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary) has conducted a multi-sited ethnolinguistic research in a bilingual Romani community with approximately 3000 people in Tiszavasvári, North-Eastern Hungary. The research team takes semi-guided sociolinguistic interviews with members of the community , which discuss the topics of language socialization, language practices and language ideologies around the usage of Romani and Hungarian language resources and discursive patterns. Also interviews with educators and systematic classroom observations take place at the Magiszter Elementary School in Tiszavasvári, which is visited by the children of the community. Furthermore the team performs participating observation, spends much time (in the year 2017 a total of one Month in few-day periods) in the community in several formal (worships) and informal (playing football etc.) programs. The goal is to become acquainted with the language practices of the community and to formulate principles in order to make the schooling of the community’s children more successful than before.

There are several parallel language socialization practices in the community. They include language resources linked to Romani and to Hungarian in variable ways. A common point is – after decades of symbolic pressure of the majority – the low prestige of Romani language practices in the eye of the speaker. Parents train their children despite of even predominantly Romani home language socialization to speak Hungarian at school and in other domains outside the community. That means the thesis „at school we speak Hungarian” is internalised by the community. As a consequence school starter with a language repertoire dominated by Romani language resources become mute at the school. Since they can’t speak Hungarian well, they do not talk at all.

To change this situation and empower students and parents, educators from the school and members of the research group founded in August 2017 the Translanguaging Workshop, which aims to apply translanguaging theory and practices in Tiszavasvári. According to the translanguaging concept (García 2009), speakers usually referred as bilingual have a single and indivisible language repertoire (García 2014) just like monolinguals. Instead of the development of Hungarian or Romani language skills, this concept supports social equality and competitiveness trough the development of the whole repertoire. This goal is aimed by building on home language practices of the speaker: everyday ways of translanguaging in out of school domains become parts of the learning activity. Instead of the expectation to speak with language resources linked to standard Hungarian the school adapts to the language practices of its students. This provide the feelings of cosiness and continuity, which leads to the sense of being secure and to more courageous, stratified and varied communication. The concept avoids the stigmatisation of any language resources and stops with perceiving school and standard language practices belonging inseparable together.

We adopt the translingual practices and pedagogy developed and applied in the schooling of bilingual Students in New York (García 2009, Celic-Seltzer 2011, García-Hesson 2015, García-Li 2015, Wiley-García 2016).  The novelty of our project lies in bringing Romani ways of speech (Romani) and grassroots literacy practices in the learning process.

The introduction and continuous increase of romani language practices in school serves as guarantee for the balanced and constant expansion of students’ language repertoire.

This is achieved at institutional (macro) level and at personal (micro) level of interactions. In the academic year 2017/2018, we gain experience in some school subjects (primarily Ethics and Hungarian language) and in classes, we elaborate the possibilities of input and output measurements, and strive for the dissemination of the program among parents, students and educators. School-starters (first grade elementary classes) are already learning by translanguaging principles and practices. These classes did two input tests about language competences: one by only standard ways of speaking and one by including the possibility of translanguaging, that is, to use resources linked to Romani during the test.

Also from the academic year 2017/2018, we extend our research activities to the observation of the home and school language practices of another, only Hungarian speaking Roma community in the town of Tiszavasvári (responsible for the subproject is Bernadett Jani-Demetriou).

Depending on the experiences of the first year we plan to extend the project to a bigger part of the school, or rather the elaboration of a detailed program of translanguaging with nonstandard Romani resources also to use in other schools in Hungary and abroad. We report our experiences among other ways of multiplication with publications in Hungarian and in English. We are expecting from our project more school success for the children of the community not only regarding their Hungarian language practices, but also their whole school studies. But most of all, with our program we hope to have an emancipating and motivating effect on the entire school life of these students.


Celic, Christina – Kate Seltzer 2011. Translanguaging. a CUNY-NYSIEB Guide for Educators. New York: The Graduate Center, The City University of New York.

García, Ofelia – Li Wei 2015. Translanguaging, bilingualism and bilingual education. In: W. Wright, S. Boun, & O. García (ed.): Handbook of Bilingual Education. Malden, MA: John Wiley. 223-240.

García, Ofelia – Sarah Hesson 2015. Translanguaging frameworks for teachers: Macro and micro perspectives. In A. Yiacoumetti (ed.): Multilingualism and Language in Education: Current Sociolinguistic and Pedagogical Perspectives from Commonwealth Countries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 221-242.

García, Ofelia 2009. Education, Multilingualism and Translanguaging in the 21. Century. In: Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove et al. (ed.): Social Justice through Multilingual Education. Multilingual Matters, Cromwell. 140-158.

García, Ofelia 2014. Countering the dual: Transglossia, dynamic bilingualism and translanguaging in education. In: R. Rubdy & L. Alsagoff (eds.): The global-local interface, language choice and hybridity. Bristol, United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters. 100-118.

Wiley, Terrence G. – Ofelia Garcia 2016. Language_Policy and Planning in Language Education: Legacies, Consequences, and Possibilities. The Modern Language Journal. 48–63.