Teachers’ Code Switching in an EFL Classrooms

Assist. Prof Wasan Noori Fadhil
College of Education- English Department

According to Bullock and Toribo code switching (hereafter CS) is defined as” the ability on the part of bilinguals to alternate effortlessly between their two languages” (1). This definition means that CS is utilized only by people who master two or more different languages. This phenomenon was developed by Poplack and Gumperz. For Gumperz , CS is” the juxtaposition of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or subsystems within the same exchange”(2) Individuals are indulged in code switching for different communication issues. It takes different forms. A sentence may begin in one language and then end in another . In this case , it is called intersentential switching. Or it occurs within a clause including a phrase or a single word or across morphemes and thus, it is called intrasentential switching which is usually connected with the most fluent bilinguals.

Generally speaking, code switching has various functions. It is used as a means of expressing solidarity with a social group especially when the listener answers with a similar switch a degree of rapport and goodwill are established. It may also be used to exclude other people who don’t know the language. Moreover, code switching can reflect the attitude of the speaker whether he is friendly, annoyed, jocular and so on.

A number of researchers have mentioned that code switching is a useful tool in teaching and learning a second language. Code switching in educational milieu refers to the alternation between the mother tongue and the second language in order to provide a means of communication by language teachers. The most important motive for teachers’ use of CS is to facilitate students’ learning because utilizing CS increases the students’ understanding of the teaching materials (Widia, 2015) and provides students with comprehensible input especially for lower level students. ( Fatima, 2016). Code switching in the classroom is highly purposeful and has pedagogical goals. Thus, it is inevitable in the classroom especially when the teacher and students have the same language.
Gulzar (2010) summarizes all functions of teachers’ code switching in Pakistani EFL classrooms in the following points :
1- Clarification
2- Giving instructions effectively
3- Translation
4- Socializing
5- Linguistic competence
6- Topic shift
7- Ease of expression
8- Emphasis
9- Checking understanding
10- Repetitive functions
11- Create sense of belonging
Thus, CS must be welcomed in the EFL classrooms but not in an excessive way as this may affect the teaching and learning process negatively. It can also decrease the willingness of the students to speak English.( Kustati, 2014)

1- Bullock and Toribio (2009) The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code Switching.p1
2- Gumperz, J.J. (1982) Discourse Strategies.p59