In this paper we reflect on the article, Science education in a bilingual class: problematising a translational practice, by Zeynep Ünsal, Britt Jakobson, Bengt-Olav Molander and Per-Olaf Wickman (Cult Stud Sci Educ, doi:10.1007/s11422-016-9747-3). In their article, the authors present the results of a classroom research project by responding to one main question: How is continuity between everyday language and the language of science construed in a bilingual science classroom where the teacher and the students do not speak the same minority language? Specifically, Ünsal et al. examine how bilingual students construe relations between everyday language and the language of science in a class taught in Swedish, in which all students also spoke Turkish, whereas the teacher also spoke Bosnian, both being minority languages in the context of Swedish schools. In this forum, we briefly discuss why close attention to bilingual dynamics emerging in classrooms such as those highlighted by Ünsal et al. matters for science education. We continue by discussing changing ontologies in relation to linguistic diversity and education more generally. Recent research in bilingual immersion classroom settings in so-called “content” subjects such as Content and Language Integrated Learning, is then introduced, as we believe this research offers some significant insights in terms of how bilingualism contributes to knowledge building in subjects such as science. Finally, we offer some reflections in relation to the classroom interactional competence needed by teachers in linguistically diverse classrooms. In this way, we aim to further the discussion initiated by Ünsal et al. and to offer possible frameworks for future research on bilingualism in science education. In their article, Ünsal et al. conclude the analysis of the classroom data by arguing in favor of a translanguaging pedagogy, an approach to teaching and learning in which students’ whole language repertoires are used as valuable resources for constructing meaning and for developing academic competences in the language of instruction. This is a conclusion that we support wholeheartedly and an educational practice that we hope to promote with this forum discussion.
- Classroom interactional competence
- Science education