The Functions of Code Switching in Esl Program

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Study on the students’ code-switching in the ESL program G515 Wenmin Liang Introduction: Using of both or multiple languages within a conversation or text is the most common bilingual or multilingual phenomena. When a bilingual person begins a conversation in one language and then switches to the other language is referred to as code-switching (Ester J. de Jong, 2011). A general view of bilingualism or multilingualism code-switching is a normal and functional bilingual or multilingual behavior. It acts as an effective communicative strategy for language learners who sharing different L1 to use all the linguistic resources available during the conversation. Bilingual negotiations occur quite naturally in the foreign language classroom where students and teachers use it solving curriculum problems or helping to complete the tasks and activities in cooperative learning groups. However, according to the previous research, the dominant approach in the second language (L2) teaching has advocated no use of L1 in the L2 classroom.

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Thus, many language teaching approaches continue to assume that L2 instruction should be mainly through the L2 and that if there is recourse to the L1, it should be minimized as much as possible (Turnbull, 2001). This study aims to specifically explore the students’ use of L1 in the second language classroom based on my three class observations of speaking/listening class in Duquesne’s ESL program that range from basic, intermediate and advanced proficiency levelstofind out whether second language learners use L1 and to what extent does code-switching affect the foreign language learning. The Duquesne’s ESL program divides into several proficiency levels according to learners’ placement test before they register their academic programs. Particular to the speaking and listening class, each proficiency level class generally involves in 15 to 20 students in a classroom. The biggest population for the ESL program in Duquesne are Chinese and Saudi Arabian students, then the minor constituents are African students and a few European students. Their language study goals for each groups are in accordance with the order of increasing difficulty from the basic knowledge about the phonetics to the fully grasp and produce of English utterances, speeches, presentations for the need of further academic study. Literature Review: The study and literature have indicated the general occasion for discussion of the code-switching in the foreign language classroom. It focuses on spontaneous, dynamic and high-density mixing of the two languages within a small speaking environment. Proficient bilinguals are able to switch at a higher level of grammatical constituents whereas less proficient bilinguals tend to switch single items that are structurally less integrated to the discourse.

Therefore, for those less proficient language speakers in both languages, code-switching serves as a source of morphological structure, constituting a combination of code-switching and code-convergence and alternatively, worked as a multi-performance. Weiyun He (2013)notes that these speakers use the optimal elements and aspects of each language from their entire linguistic repertoire and to work to the exclusion of elements and aspects with which they may be less familiar and in which they may be less proficient. Regardless of age or proficiency, this multi-performance can also create new forms and possibilities for language use, extending to speakers a wider range of transcultural, translingual identities options. Specifically to the students’ first language use in the second or foreign language classroom. 2 articles investigate the students’ L1 use in a content-based or task-based foreign language classroom, explaining that students’ code-switch not only as a fallback method when their knowledge of the L2 fails them, or for other participant-related functions, but also for discourse-related functions that contextualize the interactional meaning of their utterances (Grit & Jennifer, 2005). This also refers that language learners take the classroom as a bilingual space through code-switching patterns. For a task-based class, tasks would become the central part of the learners’ course of study, lasting several weeks and requiring the learners to engage both separately and collaboratively. Students would increase their use of L1 during determining the content and format of the task. Over time, this increase could be related to learner’s familiarity with the task and their partners. As it goes to the content creation, less L1 would be used. This result still indicates the effect of important facilitator of the L1 language in classroom. Furthermore, Grit and Jennifer (2005) find that students can envision the classroom as a community of practice, manifesting their conception of the classroom as a bilingual space. When given permission to code-switch, these students did not merely fall back on the L1 when they encountered a deficiency in their L2 learning; they also made frequent use of language alternation to indicate changes in their orientation toward the interaction and toward each other. Therefore, as the research concludes, the same code-switch in this content-based or task-based classroom may indicate the students’ relationship to two different roles, namely their institutional role as student and their social role as emerging bilingual. Allowing students to code-switching in ways that envision the foreign language classroom as a bilingual community of practice is an ideal perception for all the second language learners, because it can give them the opportunity to become more comfortable with transferring between L1 and L2, like a successful bilingual they hope to be. Observation summary: Basic B class: In basic B level ESL class, the instructor organizes her class by integrating three main study activities to achieve her class objectives, the warming up exercise, listening practice based on textbook and introduce the term “hedge” in linguistic perspective. For this proficiency level learners, they have not much language skills to both understand others and express themselves. They are nervous to speak English, which could tell from their performance in the class.

The instructor leads them to practice a few tongue twisters as a warming up practice to relax and open their muscles. In the following part, the teacher initiates the listening practice which concerning the topic of “obesity”. Before they start to listen to the tape, teacher paraphrases and explains the word “obesity” for students and I heard that a few Chinese student use the Chinese translation to help their fellows to understand. After they listened the tape, teacher suggests students to talk about the topic in groups for a while. The third part for this class is to introduce the term “hedge”. Hedge in linguistic aspect is regarded as a kind of euphemism, which functions as a mitigating word or sound used to lessen the impact of utterances and let listeners to make the inferences from it. In another word, the listeners are required to figure out what the speaker is trying to say exactly. In the beginning, I found students think it hard to understand until teacher offers them the typical examples and say “sometimes, you need to rise your tone for a little bit to make exaggerations”. Then they were divided into groups to create their own conversation that contains the hedge in it. A few Chinese students are working on this task by using examples in Chinese as starters to help their partners to better understand and create their own ones. Indeed, Chinese language has much more examples of making inference in their utterance for their culture backgrounds. Meanwhile, I find several Saudi Arabian students are using their language to communicate. The teacher walks among the groups back and forth, participating in their discussion and encouraging their hedge sentences in English. Intermediate B class: In the Intermediate B level ESL class, two kinds of learning activities constitute the class content. The first one is interview presentation, which requires students to do the presentation about their interviewing with a native speaker in regard to a formal profession. There was less communication during this activity.

The second creative activity is impromptus speech. Each students is given two envelope, and the teachers will randomly choose one envelope for students’ name and the other is for a topic. Every students will do a one minute speech about this topic before the teacher and the class. During this session, lots of students are using their L1 to discuss with their fellows about how the activity will conduct and how they should act and speak for this task. Meanwhile, the teacher suggests students to take a video record for their performance to do the self-evaluation. I find that students tend to ask someone who shares the same first language with themselves to take the record and share their emotional anxiety towards their upcoming speeches. Advanced class: For this advanced level of ESL speaking/ listening class I observed, it mainly focus on the phonetic knowledge for students. However, the teacher does not teach the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) systematically, instead, he lists groups of words that share the common sound that requires students to find out according to the pronunciation of each word. For example, the word list “suggest, soldier, jacket, fridge” contains the common sound /dʒ/ in it and certain number of students are still confused about the commons sound or they know the sound but have no idea about how to put it down in IPA format. Under such circumstances, students who has grasped the knowledge of IPA in their previous learning experience will offer their support to their partner directly using their first language, and the teacher does not deny their function and help. Accordingly, here come the stress and intonation practice which are consistent with format of the commons sounds practice for the rest part of class task and discussion.

Discussion: After I finished my class observations, I interviewed three instructors for these three classes. I want to know their opinion about students’ L1 use during their ESL class. Surprisingly, all of three teachers know about this occasion but they don't want to prohibit certain amount of code-switching behaviors in their class. Because they think that certain amount of code-switching for L2 learners are necessary when their L2 fails them to seek clarification about classroom assignments and other organizational matters thus limiting their production of the target language and exposure to it. For example, students will translate “obesity” to Chinese directly to their fellows in order to conduct their group discussion promptly. Also, they will make it clear about the “hedge” linguistically by using the practical utterance examples in Chinese to their partners. Because it is obvious that Chinese language and culture are more likely to express their true meaning implicitly, they can easily find reference to appreciate better for this concept. Moreover, they use their L1 to help each other to understand how they should do for the impromptus speech procedures and instruct someone who has not systematically grasped the IPA knowledge. As mentioned in the previous literature studies, in the task-based class, increasing using of L1 may worked as a fallback method that scaffolds students to better behave in their L2 class. Whereas in the content-based assignment, less L1 will be used. For instance, students make their own sentences with hedge or do their own interview presentations. Meanwhile, it is found that code-switching could act as a tool of contextualization cue interacts between students to students in the classroom, conducting a social role as emerging bilingual.

The code-switching from L2 to L1 is a represent of their choices of social identity. Students will naturally to cling to their common L1 fellows to take video record for them or they will talk to them a little bit about their anxiety before delivering their speech. These choices can display their culture characteristics and their identity identification in their second language class and culture. Therefore, I find that both previous research and class observation has well explored that code-switching could facilitate L2 learners to resort to their L1 when their L2 fails them to well and truly express them or resolve problem. At the same time, we have to admit that excessive using of L1 for students in L2 class is not feasible either, for it could impede the comprehensible output for their second language development. For example in China, it is so common for both Chinese teachers and students to use their first language to organize their class and assist learning English as a foreign language. For the natural limitation of access to the immersed environment for learning English, the resources of keeping touch with the native speaker or native speaking teachers is limited. In addition, China has not established any written guidelines on the target language norm for L2 learning and the Ministry of Education has not discussed the amount of code-switching in their national English teaching area. Therefore, ESL or EFL program are supposed to find the proper balance between comprehensible input and output and instructors should well control the amount and purpose of the L1use in the L2 class. Implications: In summary, this study shows findings from previous research review and practical ESL class observations about the students’ code-switching in the second and foreign language classroom. Students are willing to use their L1 to create peer group talks or cooperative task discussion which helps them to express their ideas and themselves better when their L2 fails to make clear of that.

From the cognitive sense, they can use L1 to make sense of the classroom, course, concept and world, and from the sociolinguistic perspective, the use of L1 could collect ideas that can in turn mediate the learning of L2 and promote the interaction with other learners and teachers. However, code-switching is still discouraged in spite of its merits because it would decrease the students’ input receiving and impede on their subsequent language choice in the classroom. This suggests that teachers are supposed to use recording or analyzing way of improvement to reflect on their teaching conduct, observing students’ natural language use in their classroom and trying to be a facilitator for language learning. By doing so, teachers may become informed of how and why L1 should be used in the L2 classroom. At the same time, certain policy about the amount of the code-switching is expected to come out in some countries like China, which could effectively conduct the teachers training program to regulate the L1 use in these foreign language classroom. In all, although code-switching has been a controversial issue in the L2 teaching for a long time, it can also be viewed as a multi-performance for those who are in charge of two or more languages regardless of their proficiency level. It is also an attainable goal for these language learners to envision the foreign language classroom as a bilingual community and to easily use both their L1 and L2, advocating the bilingualism or even multilingualism. Under this kind of circumstance, it would be possible for these language learners to become the successful bilingual speaker in both of their first language and target language. References: De La Campa, J. C., &Nassaji, H. (2009). The amount, purpose, and reasons for using L1 in L2 classrooms.

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