Vietnamese University EFL teachers' code-switching in classroom instruction

Nguyen, Thi Hang
Bell, Allan
Grant, Lynn
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This study examines the under-explored phenomenon of code-switching practised by EFL teachers in classroom instruction in a Vietnamese setting. Among the foreign languages taught and learned in Vietnamese universities, English is the most popular.

The focus is on a cultural group of EFL teachers who share code-switching as a practice in their EFL classroom instruction, leading me to adopt ethnography as the methodology for the study. The research design involved data-driven analysis of 12 teachers’ code-switching behaviour from four different main sources of information: classroom observations; class recordings; interviews with the observed teachers; and interviews with their students, together with field notes

The findings show that teachers practised code-switching very commonly in their English instruction, in five different forms. One of the most noticeable forms was their switching involving Vietnamese fillers or an English interjection. The teachers practised code-switching in many situations, which were divided into two categories: during instruction of language teaching units and during instruction of classroom process. It was evident in this study that teachers’ practice of code-switching served both instructional and social functions, confirming many of the functions found in the literature. Furthermore, this study found that teachers code-switched due to various factors which derived from both teachers themselves and their students. One of the most noticeable teacher-related factors was their past education and habitual practice. The key student-related factors that led to teachers’ code-switching were students’ level of ability in English and their lack of motivation to speak English. Moreover, teachers’ code-switching in this study did not seem to determine their students’ different types of language behaviour in the classroom. Instead, there were other reasons involved, e.g. teachers’ question style, students’ motivation, and students’ habitual practice. Vietnamese seemed to be of great importance to teachers in their English classroom in this context. Therefore, EFL teachers in the present study preferred a two-language policy rather than a policy of using only English in the classroom.

Based on the findings of the study, recommendations are provided for EFL teachers, as well as teacher educators and Vietnamese language policy makers, for situations where teachers’ code-switching could be encouraged and many other situations where their code-switching should generally be avoided. In particular, I recommend that teachers’ over-translation from English into Vietnamese be discouraged in nearly all situations in EFL classes. Some of the findings of this study may be useful for English language teaching in other similar educational contexts, e.g., Asian countries, where code-switching in the English classroom is a common practice.

Classroom instruction , Code-switching , EFL teachers , Ethnography , University , Vietnam
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