Teachers Code Switching Between English And Chinese Education Essay

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Code switching(hereafter CS), briefly defined as alternate use of two or more languages in the same utterance or conversation (Grosjean, 1982), is one of the most engaging aspects of bilingual speech and widespread situation in bilingual communities . Far from being perceived as a random form of language exchange, it has been studied that it is a highly functional activity. During the last two decades, it has drawn much scholarly attention on this field and much research has been conducted in investigating this language phenomenon in social contexts and formal classroom settings. However, a relatively little research has been carried out on teachers' CS, especially in the EFL context (Macaro, 2001). Although teachers' use of mother tongue exist in ESL/EFL classrooms, some people such as policy makers and institutional authority tend to be more supportive of minimizing the L2 use in classrooms, considering CS as an undesirable behavior in formal classroom settings and consequently a form of language deficit. They are inclined to base their ideas on the theoretical arguments such as maximum of target language input and teaching approach which rejects mother tongue such as direct method and CLT. Others, nonetheless, sit on the opposite stand. They assert that instead of ignoring it, CS can be a strategic method in ESL/EFL context in facilitating teaching practice.

Research Aim

A considerable amount of research has been carried out on teachers' CS between English and Chinese in classrooms at tertiary level in Mainland China in recent years, notwithstanding, little empirical research has been dedicated in investigating on high school contexts and insufficient knowledge of this area is produced. The primary aim of this research is to investigate teachers' CS between English and Chinese in high school contexts in Mainland China. I am therefore looking at how much, when and why teachers' CS occurs in high school EFL classrooms and teachers' and students attitudes towards CS. Classrooms are always acknowledged as the sole source of L2 input for EFL students in learning and acquiring the target language, therefore, what and how teachers says in classrooms may have significant impact for the students who learn another language (Min and Li, 2008). The high school student population in China is substantial. Based on the statistics released by the Ministry of Education of China (2003), China has over 80 million full time secondary students learning a foreign language, and English is learned by 95% of those students as a compulsory subject for high school students before entering college or universities. Undoubtedly, it is a transitional period of for those students who are interested in enrolling college or universities. Therefore, the relevance to study teachers' CS in the high school context in China is crucial. With more deep perceptions of this area, it could help researchers to investigate how teachers' CS works in the context and could provide invaluable insights on the future study.

Literature Review

A substantial supply of research has been generated on social CS in bilingual communities and with restricted focus on classroom settings. CS in classroom first gained its attention in 1980s when audio recordings are developed, and the availability has encouraged researchers to study classroom interaction (Martin-Jones, 2000). Since then, research influxes with application to study CS in ESL/EFL classroom settings. CS is the common feature of communication in ESL/EFL classrooms. Whereas CS in classrooms is always categorized as unacceptable language feature, and should be prohibited in the classroom. According to Wei and Martin (2009), "code switching in community contexts is treated as an acceptable lingual talk, in many classroom contexts code switching is deemed inappropriate, and as a deficit or dysfunctional mode of interaction". Now with the understanding and study of teachers' CS deepens, the use of mother tongue in classrooms is seen as strategic methods in facilitating teachers to achieve pedagogical aims and values. The following are some scholarly research which has been conducted in recent years on this area. Camilleri (1996), looks at CS in secondary schools in Malta, and it has shown that teachers employ CS as a communicative resources in constructing knowledge across the curriculum, in interacting with monolingual English texts, and in building relationships with on another. Raschka, Sercombe and Huang (2009) has studied teachers' code switching in two Taiwanese cram schools in Taipei, which are the private language institution. The research has found out that there is a large amount of CS in classrooms and it can be employed as a strategic method by teachers in EFL classrooms to teach. The role of Teachers' CS has also attracted Chinese researchers' attention, such as He(2001), Min and Li(2008). They have identified code switching widely exists in the classrooms of colleges and universities where they researched, and argues that code switching plays an important part in ELT in China.

Research Question

Teachers' CS in Chinese high schools occurs to different extent, and respectively, the importance to undertake this research is ostensible. It needs thorough and detailed study of this field from linguistic, sociolinguistic and other perspectives. The following are the listed research questions which needs careful investigation. The questions addressed will be answered by collecting quantitative and qualitative data in adopting audio-recording, questionnaires and interviews instruments.

How much teachers' CS exists in classrooms and in what circumstances does CS occur?

What specific functions does teachers' CS perform in the classrooms?

What are the linguistic/structural features of teachers' CS in classrooms?

What are the teachers and students' perceptions of teacher CS phenomenon?

Research Design

This study draws on an investigation to address these research questions which are outlined above. The general aim is to research what role does teachers' code switching play in the EFL classrooms of high schools in China. In this section, there are four parts in research design which includes participants, research approach, data collection and validity and reliability.


The subjects of this research may consist of six non-native high school English teachers, and students in their classrooms. The participants in this research will be recruited from two or three different schools in one city in China. The teachers and students should all share the same L1 language which is Chinese in this case. The expected English level of teachers is advanced and students' is above lower intermediate. However, the English proficiency levels of teachers and students can not be measured and may not be measured in the study. The teachers and students will be informed about the general aim of this research but not the specific research questions that will be studied prior to the investigation. The approval from institutions and consent from participants will be acquired before conducting this research and the names of the institutions, teachers and students in this study will be anonymous to protect the participants' confidentiality regarding ethical considerations.

Research Approach

This research is a naturalistic classroom-based research in investigating the performance of teachers in intact classes without intervention of teaching and learning process. In this research, I will use audio recording as a primary mechanical means of making observations of teachers in classrooms to conduct this study. Questionnaires and interviews approaches will be supplemented in collecting the data. Gass and Mackey (2007) indicates that forms of observation methods are always used by researchers in obtaining both easily indentified and less easily indentified classroom phenomena such as participants' attitudes and thought processes in ESL/EFL settings. The digital recording can reflect what actually happens in classrooms and the data of participants' thought process can be obtained using procedures such as questionnaires and interviews.

To decode the transcripts of recorded lessons, I will employ the strategy of Conversation Analysis (CA) to analyze the data which is collected. CA has received great interests and has been applied in studying code switching in classrooms in recent years. Seedhouse (2004) explains that CA is a methodology which can be employed in what happens in the second language classrooms.

With the help of these approaches, it will be more accessible with collecting and decoding the data and it may provide invaluable insights on teachers' code switching in classrooms. However, it is important to note that every approach has its own advantages and disadvantages in SLA research. The approaches that I applied may not perfectly conduct the particular research questions which are addressed.

Data Collection

The instruments of Audio-recording of daily classes, questionnaires and interviews of teachers and students will be adopted in collecting the data of this research. Audio-recordings of classes will provide large amount of data of what actually happens in the classrooms. In this study, the data can be used to address three research questions: 1) How much teachers' CS exists in classrooms, and in what circumstances do code switching occur; 2) what are the specific functions of teachers' CS in classrooms; 3) what are the linguistic/structural features of teachers' CS; It can provide information on how much, when and why teachers code switch in classrooms. And even how students perform and react to teachers' CS.

Then, I will design two different questionnaires for teachers and students which may contain single and multiple choice questions with the aim to conduct specifically the last research question: what are teachers' and students' perceptions of CS between English and Chinese in classrooms; Questionnaires can be economical and practical in collecting data from a large number of participants involved in a research, and it is useful to collect useful insights of the study. As Mackey and Gass (2005: 92) put it, it is questionnaires which provide researchers access to obtain a wide variety of questions in second language research. In this study, I will elicit questionnaires to collect the information on teachers' and students' perceptions of CS in classrooms.

To address the research questions, I will also employ interview strategy to ask sets of questions of some of the respondents (all the teachers and some of the students). According to Mackey and Gass(2005:173), " interviews allow researchers to investigate phenomena that are not directly observable, such as learners' self-reported perceptions or attitudes, because interviews are interactive, and advantageous for learners who are not comfortable in other modes". The interviews will be audio taped and later transcribed for further analysis.

Validity and Reliability

Validity and Reliability are two relevant criteria to guarantee the quality of the research. In this study, I will take triangulation technique to entail the use of audio recording, questionnaires and interviews to obtain data in order to enhance the validity and reliability. As Mackey and Gass (2005: 181) states, "one method along cannot provide adequate support. It may take two or more independent sources to support the study and the conclusions". To ensure the sound quality of digital recorder, I will put one high quality digital recorder on the teaching desk in front of the classroom and the other at the back of the classroom. The questionnaires for teachers and students will be different regarding to different purposes, and the questions will be written both in English and Chinese so that the participants can understand every term clearly without experiencing misunderstanding or confusion. The interviews will be audio recorded and the medium of language will be in Chinese. I will interview all the teacher participants but only some of the student participants. The student participants will be selected randomly because it is not possible to interview the entire population of respondents.

Data Analysis

The research will use both qualitative and quantitative method to analyze data. The organization of this section is based on data analysis according to the research questions. The analytical techniques of data will be statistical based on audio recording, questionnires and interviews. This research fellow will fomulate some data into graohic, table, and figures to support analysis. Data will be categorized into different components and the analysis will be carried out one step by step after each field work.