Construction & deconstruction of linguistic otherness: Conflict & cooperative code-switching in (English/) bilingual classrooms

September 2009
English Teaching: Practice & Critique (University of Waikato);Sep2009, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p167
Academic Journal
The socio-cultural settings of English-language and English-medium classrooms are intrinsically bi/multilingual and bi/multicultural as both learners and teachers bring their multiple identities and home-community languages and sociolinguistic practices into the classroom. However, more often than not in such contexts, monolingual ideologies are the guiding principle for the top-down language education policies of "one-language only" which often create conflict and tension. In a postcolonial context, this paper looks at how monolingual ideologies and policies construct L1 as "the linguistic other" in face-to-face interaction in English classrooms which are defined as "English-only". It also shows how the essentialisation of the English classroom's socio-cultural spaces as non-local is met with resistance through the use of L1 which is informed by the local/national ideologies and constructs English as "the other". Against such a conflict scenario, it finds that code-switching is employed by the participants in some classrooms to achieve pedagogical goals and to resolve the tension which also deconstructs the positioning of both English and L1 as "the linguistic other". The paper employs multilayered analyses and draws on data from ethnographic research based in the classroom and community contexts. The data includes, amongst other, transcripts of classroom interactions and opinions of teachers and students about their language choices in such interactions. The findings of the paper suggest that an appreciation of the potential of the positive power, the constructive resistance and the resource argument of L1 use in English classrooms can lead to deconstructing the essentialist meanings of "the linguistic other".


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