Volume 1 Issue 1-2 (2012)

Functions of Teacher and Student Code-Switching in an EFL Classroom and Pedagogical Focus: Observations and Implications

pp. 7-18  |  Published Online: November 2012  |  DOI: 10.12973/edupij.2012.112.1

Stefan Rathert


Code-switching (CS), the alternation between two or more languages within a stretch of language, is accepted as a valuable strategy of bilinguals in making linguistic choices for communicative purposes. Following different perspectives, CS can be understood either as an attempt to communicate meanings at the macro level (such as identity, solidarity etc.), or to convey intended meaning to the listener within the boundaries of conversational interaction at the micro level. Accepted as a strategy of speakers in bilingual communities, CS in foreign language learning settings is still a contentious matter. However, its potential has been emphasized in recent studies. This small-scale study examines teacher and student CS occurrences in an EFL lesson at a Turkish state university. CS occurrences were transcribed and sample extracts were analyzed through conversational analysis. The results show that teachers and learners apply CS to generate access to language or as a tool in classroom management. This study also reveals that CS can be a learner strategy to avoid L2 when lesson content is of little relevance to learners. In such cases CS cannot fulfil its potential as a means in discourse strategy, and language learning is unlikely to be facilitated. 

Keywords: code-switching, classroom discourse, pedagogical focus, conversation analysis, EFL.


Arikdal, A.U. (2006). A conversational analysis of classroom discourse in ELT context at Cukurova University. (Unpublished Master Thesis). Cukurova University, Adana.

Auer, P. (1995). The pragmatics of code-switching: A sequential approach. In L. Milroy & P. Muysken (Eds.), One speaker, two languages, cross disciplinary perspectives (pp.115-135). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baker, C. (2000) Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. (Third Edition) Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Butzkamm, W. (1998). Code-switching in a bilingual history lesson: The mother tongue as a conversational lubricant. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1(2), 81-89.

Butzkamm, W., & Caldwell, J.A.W. (2009). The bilingual reform. A paradigm shift in foreign language teaching. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.

Cook, G. (2010). Translation in language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Deller, S., & Rinvolucri, M. (2002). Using the mother tongue. Peaslake, Surrey: Delta Publishing.

Edwards, J. A. (2003). The transcription of discourse. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, & H.E. Hamilton (Eds.). The handbook of discourse analysis (pp.321-348). Malden, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.

Eldridge, J. (1996). Code-switching in a Turkish secondary school. ELT Journal, 50(4), 303-311.

Gumperz, J. (1982). Discourse strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hamers, J.F., & Blanc, M.H.A. (2004). Bilinguality and Bilingualism (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harfitt, G. J. (2008). Exploiting transcription of identical subject content lessons. ELT Journal, 62(2), 173-181.

Holmes, J. (2008). An introduction to sociolinguistics. White Plains, N.Y.: Pearson Longman.

Littlewood, W., & Yu, B. (2011). First language and target language in the foreign language classroom. Language Teaching, 44(1), 64-77.

Macaro, E. (2005). Codeswitching in the L2 classroom: A communication and learning strategy. In E. Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers. Perceptions, challenges and contributions to the profession (Educational Linguistics, 5, 63-84).

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993). Social motivations for codeswitching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1998). A theoretical introduction to the markedness model. In C. Myers-Scotton (Ed.), Codes and consequences. Choosing linguistic varieties (pp.18-38). New York: Oxford University Press.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism and linguicism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sampson, A. (2011). Learner code-switching versus English only. ELT Journal, 3, 1-11.

Sert, O. (2005) The functions of code switching in ELT classrooms. The Internet TESL Journal, XI/8. Retrieved from: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Sert-CodeSwitching.html.

Ustunel, E., & Seedhouse, P. (2005). Why that, in that language, right now? Code-switching and pedagogical focus. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 15(3), 302-325.

Walsh, S. (2002). Construction or obstruction: Teacher talk and learner involvement in the EFL classroom. Language Teaching Research, 6(1), 3-23.

Walsh, S. (2003). Developing interactional awareness in the second language classroom through teacher self-evaluation. Language Awareness, 12(2), 124-142.

Walsh, S. (2006). Talking the talk of the TESOL classroom. ELT Journal, 60(2), 133-141.

Wei, L. (2002). ‘What do you want me to say?’ On the Conversation Analysis approach to bilingual interaction. Language in Society, 31, 159-80.

Wei, L. (2005a). Starting from the right place: introduction to the special issue on conversational code-switching. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 275-279.

Wei, L. (2005b). ‘How can you tell?’ Towards a common sense explanation of conversational code-switching. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 375-389. 


COPE Membership

Cope logo. 

Educational Process: International Journal is a member of and subscribes to the principles of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). 

Call for Papers

EDUPIJ is calling for submissions to the Volume 6, Issue 3, 2017. Submission Deadline: September 1, 2017