n Journal for Language Teaching = Ijenali Yekufundzisa Lulwimi = Tydskrif vir Taalonderrig - Language status and covert prestige in the code switching practices of Mathematics, Science and Biology teachers

Volume 35, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0259-9570



This article reports on one aspect of an investigation into the code switching practices of a group of South African teachers who are so-called ESL speakers of English, but who teach Mathematics, Science and Biology through the medium of English to secondary school students who are also so- called ESL users of English. In the course of the investigation it emerged that, because of the covert prestige or overt status of particular codes, teachers would switch mainly to and from that code. This code switching practice may introduce a second layer of linguistic complexity, since this code is, once again, not the home language of the students or teachers. In fact, it cannot be described as the home language of any particular group, because this particular language is a 'street' variety of Zulu and Northern Sotho and has the status of an urban, sophisticated code. In the initial phase of the study ethnographic classroom observations were undertaken to record the extent and nature of code switching practices. Follow-up interviews (unstructured) were conducted with the teachers to check the researchers' impressions against the teachers' intentions and perceptions of what they were doing. During the second round of interviews a questionnaire about the status of the various Southern African languages was used as the main topic for discussion. This questionnaire was then distributed to senior students (who were in the classes that were observed), to practising teachers doing in-service upgrading courses at Vista University and to teacher trainees at the Mamelodi Campus of Vista University. The results of these questionnaires constitute the most important data for this study and raises important issues about the role of African languages in education.

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