By: Faten Alzaid
One day I was sitting with my 3 years old boy and we were having this conversation:
Me: Hi Faisal, what are you doing?
Son: I want to play with my toys.
Me: Ok, Let’s play…“pretending game”?
*The font in the bold= English
*The font in the italic = Arabic
Right after this conversation my husband whispered in my ears “please use only Arabic!”.
Implementing code-switching in the context of using two languages at the same time is considered as a fancy speech back home in Saudi Arabia. People most likely believe that the person who uses code-switching is trying to be more prestigious. Interestingly, since I arrived to Montreal, four years ago, I notice that people do naturally exchange two languages in their speech using French and English. Even in the bi\multilingual education context, there are conflicts opinions regarding code-switching phenomenon. For example, Creese and Blackledge (2010) have shown different research studies that some of which are counted code-switching as positive pedagogy while others not. These different beliefs towards code-switching lead me to wonder why code-switching is considered as a disadvantage in some contexts while it seems as an advantage in the others?
I went through different blogs and literature to explore such beliefs about code-switching which happens most likely in bi\multilingual communities. I found out various perceptions about code-switching. For example, Herk (2012) stated that “Code-switching is a skill, not a short coming” (p.131). However, a blog post written by Jacomine Nortier in the multilingual living magazine, she reported that, in the social level, sometimes people consider speakers who do code switching as “careless” and lazy that they go back and forth using more than one language.
Few weeks ago, I was watching an interesting video of one kid who did code switching using English, French and Indonesian with his parents. You can watch it here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgWQoZz6nEk). This kid reminds me of my child’s way of switching between English French, and Arabic. What come to my surprise, is the fact that my 3 year old is able to use English and French when he at the daycare and use English and Arabic when he is at home. I find out his ability to do such an attitude is very skillful and smart in terms of applying successful communication with different people. However, I am also afraid that this code-switching will become a habit in the long run. As sequence, in places like job interview, academic settings, and even during any public speech code-switching could perceived as negative factor sometimes that might effect his life later.
In terms of educational context, I was arguing this point with my classmates so I expressed that I personally find out code-switching in the language classroom is necessary as it keeps the lesson flows smoothly beside the other advantages. In the contrary, I am not sure if this attitude will be useful or useless in terms of shaping effective language learning and successful communication skills. Hence, here are my questions for you; 1) As a teacher, how would you perceive code-switching as habit outside or inside classroom interactions? 2) Would you consider using two languages in a general social dialogue as a negative or positive thing? And why? 3) As a parent or (future parent), would you encourage your child to do code switching or not? Why?
Creese, A., & Blackledge, A. (2010). Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching?. Modern Language Journal, 94, (1), 103-115.
Van Herk, G. (2012). What is sociolinguistics? (Vol. 6). John Wiley & Sons.