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Code Switching as the Main Practice of Bilingualism

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Code switching is a prevalent phenomenon that frequently involves bilingual speakers. Words from two languages are used within a single discourse when code-switching bilinguals. Code-switching has been differentiated from code mixing in some research code mixing is described as a practice of mixing languages in one phrase while code-switching can happen within or across sentence limits within a single discussion or constituent (e.g., Brice & Anderson, 1999 ; Meisel, 1989 ; Muysken, 2000 ; Nicoladis & Genesee, 1997). In other research, as well as in this research, code-switching and code mixing are considered synonymously as an alternation of two languages within the same act of speech (Bokamba, 1989 ; Clyne, 1987 ; Genesee, 1989 ; Genesee, Paradis & Crago, 2004 ; Poplack, 2001).

Code switching has been well researched in bilingual adolescents, especially with respect to behavioral grammatical and communicative tasks (e.g., Cantone, 2007 ; Gumperz, 1971 ; MacSwan, 2014 ; MacSwan & McAlister, 2010 ; McClure, 1977 ; Poplack, 1980). The complexity of code switching for bilingual adolescents usually shows advanced understanding of both languages ‘ grammars and reflects the ability of adults to use them properly.

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I chose this data because I lived in Indonesia as a foreigner and saw a lot of Indonesian people use English and Indonesia when they talk. Also, Bahasa Indonesia has a lot of words based on many English words, I think that is why Indonesian people use more English words in conversation. I want to use this data to find out if the adolescents better understand using Bahasa Indonesia and English, not just teaching in English.


In the conversation above, it is a conversation between people you can think of as teacher and student. The conversation was predominantly in English except when the teacher switched to Bahasa Indonesia to assist his student comprehend his explanation. At first, Bahasa Indonesia was used first in the form of a message qualification to clarify ‘point of view,’ then reiteration and back to message qualification before proceeding on the poet’s expression of his emotions in the poem in English. Before presenting fresh data that was subsequently repeated in Bahasa Indonesia, it seemed that Bahasa Indonesia was used to recapitulate the earlier explained material to guarantee student understanding.

In several shorter explanations later in the conversation, the order of language from English to Bahasa Indonesia was obvious and a final long explanation. The teacher asked questions to verify their understanding throughout the conversation and the student received brief responses in English such as ‘yes,’ ‘no’ and ‘first person.’ Based on the comparatively greater reiteration frequency compared to message qualification, the teacher only translated at significant junctures but still gave most of the English explanations.


In this conversation, by moving to Bahasa Indonesia for reiteration and message qualification, the teacher provided feedback to their student in the form of comprehensive explanations of ideas. Since the command of the language change was usually one way from English to Bahasa Indonesia, this indicates that for student the basic language for learning was English. In the given circumstances where the English skills of student might not be sufficient for student to comprehend the complicated subject matter if they did not use Bahasa Indonesia, the teacher’s judicious use of code switching was a great teaching approach to build the data in a manner that was more understandable to the student. 


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