Is Code-Switching a Skill or a Short Coming?

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”?

Son: Ok.

*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?

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Politeness across cultures and language teaching


In the 21st century the field of language teaching and learning has shifted from focusing on form and structure to give more attention to the integration of the culture of the target language. As meaning is usually created within a social context, culture is very important to understanding and interpreting words and sentences. As such, in order for language learners to effectively communicate with other speakers of the target language, they should not only master the language but also understand the culture of that language.

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In Multicultural and Multilingual Classrooms, What Should I/We Do?


ESL: English as a second language

EFL: English as a foreign language

Having been studying at McGill for more than one year, I really enjoy my learning and daily life in Montreal. However, considering my classmates and friends are from different cultural backgrounds, I find that communicating with them is not easy. In particular, I notice that interactions related to cultural issues and sensitive topics can be even more difficult.

  1. Is That My Own Culture? I Fail to Introduce it to My Friends!

I believe that my English proficiency supports my academic learning and some simple daily communications in Montreal. However, introducing Chinese culture to my non-Chinese speakers in English can be very challenging. For example, last semester, we decided to visit Chinatown, preparing our posting assignment. When I tried to illustrate Xian (鲜), one of the Chinese special flavors to my Canadian classmates, I failed to explain it because there is no equivalent word in English. I felt even more stupid when I attempted to elaborate on it by telling them how this flavor could be tasted in some soups. Considering my poor explanation, even I would never try these soups. Furthermore, when I turned to my Chinese students for help, they also found this term really difficult to be clarified. That is why it is really embarrassing when my foreign friends want to learn some Chinese culture but I am not capable of explaining it clearly in a language (i.e., English) that they are able to understand.

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