The functions of teachers' code switching in multilingual and multicultural high school classrooms in the Siyanda District of the Northern Cape Province

Uys, Dawid (2010-03)

Thesis (MPhil (General Linguistics))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Code switching is a widely observed phenomenon in multilingual and multicultural communities. This study focuses on code switching by teachers in multilingual and multicultural high school classrooms in a particular district in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The aims of this study were to establish whether teachers in the classrooms concerned do code switch and, if so, what the functions thereof are. With these aims in mind, data were collected from four high schools in the Siyanda District, during 13 lessons in total. These lessons were on the subjects Economic Management Sciences, Business Studies and Accounting. The participants in the study were 296 learners in Grades 8 to 12 and eight teachers. Data were collected by means of researcher observations and audio recordings of lessons. These recordings were orthographically transcribed and then analysed in terms of the functions of code switching in educational settings as identified from the existing literature on this topic as well as in terms of the Markedness Model of Myers-Scotton (1993). The answer to the first research question 1, namely whether teachers made use of code switching during classroom interactions was, perhaps unsurprisingly, “yes”. In terms of the second question, namely to which end teachers code switch, it was found that the teachers used code switching mainly for academic purposes (such as explaining and clarifying subject content) but also frequently for social reasons (maintaining social relationships with learners and also for being humorous) as well as for classroom management purposes (such as reprimanding learners). The teachers in this data set never used code switching solely for the purpose of asserting identity. It appears then that the teachers in this study used code switching for the same reasons as those mentioned in other studies on code switching in the educational setting. The study further indicated that code switching by the teachers was mainly an unmarked choice itself, although at times the sequential switch was triggered by a change in addressee. In very few instances was the code switching a marked choice; when it was, the message was the medium (see Myers-Scotton 1993: 138), code switching functioned as a means of increasing the social distance between the teacher and the learners or, in one instance, of demonstrating affection. Teachers code switched regardless of the language policy of their particular school, i.e. code switching occurred even in classrooms in which English is officially the sole medium of instruction. As code switching was largely used in order to support learning, it can be seen as good educational practice. One of the recommendations of this study is therefore that particular modes of code switching should be encouraged in the classrooms, especially where the medium of instruction is the home language of very few of the learners in that school.

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