The functions of code switching in English language learning classes

  • Christa Van der Walt


It has been a cornerstone of English language teaching, as well as a proud tradition, that English should be taught by using only English. The practice is not questioned often and student teachers remember and are sometimes reminded during their practical teaching sessions of various techniques and strategies that can be used to get learners to speak English only, from pretending to be deaf when learners address them in their home language to punishing learners by exacting a ‘fine’ of some sort when they ‘lapse’ into their home languages. Auerbach (1993), Swain and Lapkin (2000), Cook (2001) and Hughes et al. (2006) discuss the resistance against the use of home or community languages in language teaching classes and describe a variety of functions for which languages other than the target language can be used with good effect. The question in this article is whether English language teaching practices in a number of Western Cape schools demonstrate similar functions of code switching.

Author Biography

Christa Van der Walt
Prof Christa van der Walt is head of the Department of Curriculum Studies at Stellenbosch University. (Email: