n Journal for Language Teaching = Ijenali Yekufundzisa Lulwimi = Tydskrif vir Taalonderrig - Letting the L1 in by the back door : code switching and translation in Science, Mathematics and Biology classes

Volume 35, Issue 2_3
  • ISSN : 0259-9570



Code switching, or 'mixing languages', is often frowned upon and where English is used as a language of learning and teaching, the exclusive use of English is promoted as the best way to help students deal with subject matter. The methodology of teaching foreign or additional languages to intermediate and advanced classes generally support the consistent and exclusive use of the target language and such teachers often complain that teachers of other subjects 'use the vernacular', thereby disadvantaging their students. Moreover, in South Africa, multilingual classrooms are an excellent excuse for not switching to an L1 or a <i>lingua franca</i>, because which one should be used? And isn't it true that all teachers are and should be language teachers (read: English language teachers)? This article argues that it is important for all teachers, including English language teachers, to make the mind shift and see first languages or street language as a resource in their teaching. The focus in this case will be on the teaching of Science, Mathematics and Biology. It is argued that teachers will need specific guidance as to the occasion and methods by means of which they can use other languages responsibly so that they do not disadvantage their students in final examinations that are usually written in English. Since English language teachers traditionally accuse teachers of other subjects of not speaking English consistently and exclusively, suggestions will be made regarding the role that language teachers can play in raising awareness of productive and responsible code switching and translation in subjects like mathematics and science.

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