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Competitive Social Science Research Journal (CSSRJ), 1 (2), 54-71
ISSN(Print): 2708-9029, ISSN(Online): 2708-9037
An exploration of teachers’ code switching: The case of English language classroom
ZAKA UR REHMAN
PhD Scholar, School of Languages, Civilization and Philosophy, University Utara Malaysia
DR. IRFAN BASHIR
Assistant Professor, Department of Education, UMT, Lahore
CAPT. AHMED RAZA UR REHMAN
Military College Sui
The linguistic phenomenon of using two languages by switching between them is universal in
multilingual situation. Code-switching takes place when two bilingual speakers are busy in interacting
with each other. Most commonly, such individuals are not consciously aware of the fact that they are
involved in such linguistic phenomenon. The same happens to teachers as they switch the code while
teaching English in the classroom and the reason for this code-switching maybe that English has an
important status in Pakistan. However, it serves a very conspicuous social function too. This study
highlights on how code-switching assists in second language learning. A Quantitative study based on
survey data was conducted to observe the effect of code-switching on the language learning process.
In this investigation questionnaire was a major tool. Furthermore, the questionnaire used in this
research was composed in accordance to the objectives of the study. The setting of the research was
various educational institutes of Lahore. Hundred English language teachers both male and female
were chosen for sampling. This research, although introductory in nature, seeks to underline and
elaborate the effect of code-switching on the language learning process. The result shows that code-
switching helps students in learning concepts of second language in English language classroom.
Moreover, it can also be noticed as a good educational practice. To cap up, this research has made an
endeavor to better comprehend the tendencies of code-switching in Pakistani English language
Keywords: English language classroom, codeswitching, teaching process, learning process, teacher
To cite this article: Rehman, Z., Bashir, I. & Rehman, A. R. (2020). An exploration of teachers’ code switching:
The case of English language classroom. Competitive Social Science Research Journal (CSSRJ), 1 (2), 54-71
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INTRODUCTION OF THE STUDY
English has achieved the status of lingua Franca in the modern expanding world. It is the language that opens
new vistas of knowledge for everyone. It is the language of education, media, technology, and business. That is why
Pakistan has given its due share in the socio-cultural infrastructure. English is also enjoying official status being taught as
a compulsory subject and used as MOI (Medium of Instruction) for all levels. Teachers switch codes while teaching their
subject in the classroom considering it as a tool that helps students in learning and understanding. This research explores
the role of English teachers’ code switching in the classroom, how it affects teaching/learning process of English language,
the performance of language learners, individual difference, affective factors, and code-switching as a conversational
Raul quoted that in Pakistan, there are more than seventy languages being spoken (2013); whereas, Urdu is the
national language but English occupies the post of an official language. Currently, English is treated as the compulsory
subject in all the educational institutes (Ehsan & Aziz, 2014). Code-switching and code-mixing are the clear traces of the
fact that English language is at large in Pakistan. English is known as the most widely used language in in the education
sector and in other domains and in the past few years an increase has been witnessed in teaching through English at all
levels in Pakistan. Fundamentally, code switching is an inevitable need of the students in English language classrooms
because many of the Pakistani students are still lacking in their English communicative competence. Teachers, normally,
switch code for the interpretation of difficult concepts, to place illustrations or to socialize as well. Teachers are found to
switch code for making the concepts of grammar clear and moreover to make their lesson easier for their students in
Pakistani classrooms (Gulzar, 2010). There are multidimensional causes for code-switching in a classroom. It is very
important to trace the causes of code-switching used by ELT teachers in their classrooms. There are many people who still
consider code-switching in a biased way. Some people are of the view that incompetent people switch codes while other
consider it as a clue to being lazy. Whatsoever it is, the objectives of the study are to determine the reasons for which ELT
teachers go for code-switching in classroom.
English is taught as a compulsory subject in Pakistan and is also used as MOI (medium of instructions). Teachers
and students do switch the codes in classrooms during teaching and learning process. Furthermore, applied linguists
working in the area of classroom discourse have stretched the paradigm of their research in order to focus on the prominent
areas of classroom practices in connection with the second language learning. In educational set-up the phenomenon of
code-switching is all-pervasive which attracts various attitudes from learners and the teachers. There are various reasons
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for the teachers to switch the code. Teachers go for code-switching for multifarious reasons such as management, social
and academic (Barandagh, Zoghi & Amini, 2013; Chowdhury, 2012). Code switching is used to be familiar with the
learners, whenever the instructor wishes to be open in accordance with the need of the task in classroom for second
language learning (Flyman-Mattsson and Burenhult, 1999). Code-switching is also used to maintain discipline, to give
instructions to the students for different projects and tasks. Chowdhury (2012) emphasizes that code-switching can serve
as a very handy tool for crowded classrooms where the students happen to come from various socio-economic background
and diversifying linguistic competence and anticipate the teachers’ maximum attention. In the current scenario, it is needed
to develop better understanding for code-switching in English language classrooms.
Code-Switching is named of changing one language to other language during speech. Different researchers have
defined it in different ways, talking about the earlier definitions Valdes-Fallis says that borrowing, transfer or mixing, of
two codes is code-switching (1978). Gumperz (1982) is of the view that juxtaposing of two sub systems or two separate
grammatical systems is called code-switching. The word code-switching on broader level is used in the field of linguistics,
and it is always studied in a social context. Wardhaugh (1998) uses language for code and switching from a language to
another based upon the context is code-switching.
Code-switching is the use of two or more than one language in a single conversation or in a single context. The
speaker switches back and forth between languages in a same conversation. Code-switching can take place in different
situations. Sometimes question is asked in one language but answer is provided in another.
Code-switching can also be observed as a strategy by the speaker to hide his\ her lack of knowledge or vocabulary
in the target language. It is a normal phenomenon for a speaker during switching process to use more words from a
language than the other language. Scotton named matrix for the language whose words are more used in the speech than
the language whose less words are used. The other language is called embedded language (1993). Code-switching is
fundamentally the use of two distinct languages within a written text or discourse. Code-switching is divided into two
1) Inter- Sentential code-switching
E.g : Are you fine? Tum preshan lag rahy ho. (Are you fine? It seems that you are upset).
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2) Intra- Sentential code-switching
Example: Bas leave it.
Jdetawy (2011) has tried to highlight different reasons of code-switching, they included the intentions of the
interlocutors and characterized the morpho-syntactical constraints in which they focused on the location of the switches
in the sentences. There are other social motivations of code-switching like social characteristics of different community
and the relation between the proficiency and attitude of the bilinguals. Eldin (2014) indicates that speakers sometimes
switch to unify with the community, express emotions, discuss a specific topic, reflect social status, and sometimes for
audience persuasions. Code-switching normally assists the learner to enhance the power of comprehension. Kinloch (2005)
is of the view that students enjoy the right to employ their own language whenever they find it difficult to understand the
concept and the meaning. Kinloch (2005) speaks for the students to claim the right to treat their own language in
composition course where they sense that meanings are not significantly propagated.
When a native language is utilized in the teaching and learning settings it serves three functions which include
to maintain the privacy, constructing an interaction to engage learners, and establishing inter-subjectivity (Momenian &
Samar, 2011). Lee explored the functions of English as a foreign language and he concluded that use of L1 provides an
opportunity to improve knowledge, promote confidence and development of social and cultural identity. Additionally,
code-switching of the instructor in relatively related to the effective support and educational success of the students (Badrul
& Kamaruzaman, 2009). It is also believed that code-switching facilitates the English language teaching and learning
process in a way that it finds out the hidden message behind the code-switching (Tien & Liu, 2006).
Pakistani society is known as a multilingual society as a majority of the population use more than one languages.
Viewing it historically, it is normal that newly evolved languages take effects from old languages. Many words belonging
a language have become transfuse into another language due to its constant use. Similarly in sub-continent Urdu emerged
in a context where along with other local languages, English, Persian, Hindi, and Arabic were already being used. After
colonization, English not only emerged as a dominant language but it also left its permanent traces on Urdu and Hindi.
Resultantly, some of its lexical items have become a permanent part of Urdu.
Code-mixing is a small term as compared to code switching because of its inclusion of mixing and switching both.
The Urdu language used for communication between different language speakers thus Urdu is most commonly spoken
language in Pakistan. There are many other provincial and regional languages such as Pashto, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi,
Hindko, Barahwi, Saraiki, and Kashmiri. Along with all these local languages English is also used in Pakistan as an official
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language. As Urdu as national and English is the official language of Pakistan, both the languages are used side by side,
so while speaking people do switch between these and other languages as well.
A cross sectional survey type has been selected to collect the information from a population that was
predetermined. A structured questionnaire was designed to in order to collect precise and useful information related to the
study. A survey type of research is very commonly used by the researchers in the field of education. Besides that, the
survey research is good to deal with large population. In the present study a representative sampling method was used.
Data is collected at cross-sectional level from the subjects having varied experience, qualification, gender, and medium of
The questionnaire used for the research was created for the information collection from the following areas:
Section 1: Demographic information
Gender, Education (Qualification, Experience and Medium of Instruction)
Section 2: Reasons initiating code switching in English language class
This study comprises a simple random sampling of the available population of English language teachers from
various educational institutes of Lahore. The sample consists of hundred English language teachers. The researcher used
questionnaire as a tool for data collection. Moreover the researcher collected the data from the various parts of the Lahore
The responses of the subjects were analyzed by using descriptive and inferential statistics. An SPSS version 21
was used to analyse the data. The responses of the participants were evaluated to spotlight the effects of code-switching
in English language classrooms. The following statistical methods were used according to the demand of the research
1. The method of relative frequency was used to acquire the general percentage of the views of the respondents
about the effects of code-switching in second language learning.
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2. Independent samples test was performed to find out the relationship from and to different questionnaire sections
with the fixed significance level of 0.05. The primary objective of this test was to ascertain the significance value
of the gender among the subjects. Finally, the results were exhibited by using tables and charts as well.
Personal Information Data
Table 1 Gender
Frequency Percent Valid Cumulative
Male 47 47.0 47.0 47.0
Female 53 53.0 53.0 100.0
Total 100 100.0 100.0
In this study, out of hundred English Teachers, forty seven percent were male and fifty three percent were female teachers.
Personal Information Data
Table 2 Qualification
Frequency Percent Valid Cumulative
M.Phil 46 46.0 46.0 46.0
M.A 54 54.0 54.0 100.0
Total 100 100.0 100.0
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So far as the qualification was concerned, forty six percent were MPhil and fifty four percent were MA degree holders.
Personal Information Data
Table 3 Experience
Frequency Percent Valid Cumulative
1-5 YEARS 60 60.0 60.0 60.0
6-10 YEARS 25 25.0 25.0 85.0
11-15 YEARS 15 15.0 15.0 100
Total 100 100.0 100.0
The teachers whose experience was (1-5 years), they were sixty percent, the teachers whose experience was (6-10 years),
they were twenty five percent and the teachers whose experience was (11-15 years) they were fifteen percent. Moreover,
cumulative percentage is recorded in the up given table.
Personal Information Data
Table 4 Medium of Instruction
Frequency Percent Valid Cumulative
Valid ENGLISH 31 31.0 31.0 31.0
BOTH 69 69.0 69.0 100.0
Total 100 100.0 100.0
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Out of hundred percent, thirty one percent teachers follow English medium of instruction and sixty nine percent teachers
follow both (English and Urdu) medium of instructions.
Table 5: Inferential Statistics on the base of gender (statements 1-6)
1. It is easy to teach second
language by code
2. Code-switching increases
the reliability of a second
3. Code-switching eases in
translation in second
4. Code-switching ensures the
linguistic competence of
5. Code-switching helps the
teachers to meet learner’s
level of understanding.
6. Code-switching serves as a
bridge of understanding
between first and second
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Independent Samples Test was performed on the data and all the thirty items were presented in the form of five clusters,
comprising six item in one cluster. Mean values and standard deviations are given up in the table for each item accordingly.
Moreover, Sig. (2-tailed) values are also given for each item. Most of the Sig. (2-tailed) values are greater than the required
value which is 0.05, it shows that there is no significant difference in the scores of the given items on the basis of the
gender of the participants. But in one of the items given up in the cluster which is no.3, Sig. (2-tailed) value is 0.032 which
is lesser than the required value 0.05, itexposes that there is a significant difference in the score of the given item on the
basis of the gender of the participants.
Table 6: Inferential Statistics on the base of gender (Statements 7-12)
7. Code-switching makes it
easy to pass on
performance of second
9. Code-switching is an
effective process of
providing feedback to
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10. Code-switching is a
source of handling the
effectively in second
improves class room
management in second
12. Code-switching helps to
control student behavior
Independent Samples Test was performed on the given items up in the table. Apart from Mean values and Std. Deviation,
Sig. (2-tailed) values are given in the table. All the Sig. (2-tailed) values are greater than the required value which is 0.05,
it simply shows that there is no significant difference in the scores of the given items on the basis of the gender of the
Table 7 Inferential Statistics on the base of gender (Statements 13-18)
13. Code-switching makes the
instruction of second
language more effective.
14. Code-switching enhances
integrated skills of second
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15. Code-switching helps in
creating a comfortable
environment in a second
16. Use of code-switching,
develops the interest of
second language learners.
17. Code-switching gives
students a sense of
attachment with their
18. Code-switching increases
mental ability to learn
After Independent Samples Test was performed on the six items presented in the cluster, all the values including Mean,
Std. Deviation and Sig. (2-tailed) are given in the table. All the Sig. (2-tailed) values are greater than the required value
which is 0.05, it shows that there is no significant difference in the scores of the given items on the basis of the gender of
But the Sig. (2-tailed) value of one of the items given in the table (Code-switching makes the instruction of second
language more effective.) is 0.014 which is lesser than the required value which is 0.05, it simply signifies that there is a
significant difference in the score of the given item on the basis of the gender of the respondents.
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Table 8 Inferential Statistics on the base of gender (Statements 19-24)
19. Code-switching removes
hesitations of second
20. Code-switching helps to
related to the concepts of
21. Code-switching gives
students the confidence
to learn a second
22. Code-switching helps to
reduce mental stress in
23. Code-switching supports
the logical reasoning of
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regulates the structural
process of brain
smoothly in second
In this data all the values of Mean, Std. Deviation and Sig. (2-tailed) are listed in the table as a result of Independent
Samples Test. Sig. (2-tailed) values of all the item in the up given table are greater than the required value which is 0.05,
it simply signifies that there is no significant difference in the scores of the given items on the basis of the gender of the
participants but in last item there is significant difference which is lesser than the required value.
Table 9 Inferential Statistics on the base of gender (Statements 25-30)
25. Code-switching is a
genuine need in a
26. Code-switching is easy
to use in a bilingual
skills in social setting.
28. Code-switching creates
students and teachers.
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29. Code-switching helps
items/ideas in a better
30. Code-switching is
in second language
In this last cluster comprising all the items based on questionnaire, values of Mean, Std. Deviation and Sig. (2-tailed) are
listed above. After observing it can be said that Sig. (2-tailed) values of the given item up in the table are greater than the
required value which is 0.05, it simply shows that there is no significant difference in the scores of the given items on the
basis of the gender of the participants.
DISCUSSION ON FINDINGS
This study shows the relationship between code switching and second language learning/teaching as it is found
in the data collected through questionnaire from English language teachers of the various public and private institutes of
the Lahore. It is also observed in the data that code switching is the integral part of second language learning/teaching.
Code-switching increases the reliability of a second language learning/teaching. Moreover, it helps in translation in second
language class. The current study explored the perception of code switching in second language learning. Through the
analysis of the collected data in the form of frequencies and inferential tables in which mean score, standard deviation and
sig. (2-tailed) values are given, it is found that code switching enhances the students’ second language comprehension and
the relevant performance of the learners in English language classrooms. Code-switching also augments the performance
of the teachers because it helps the teachers to meet learner’s level of understanding. It ensures the linguistic competence
of the learners. So, code switching is an effective process of providing feedback to learners.
The data reveals that code switching sounds very handy in handling the individual difference very effectively
among learners in second language learning. Dominant majority in the data is of the view that with the help of code
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switching individual differences within the class can be managed very smartly. Code-switching improves classroom
management in second language learning. It also helps to control student behavior easily.
Thorough analysis of the data exposes that undoubtedly, code switching increases mental ability and reduces
mental stress and anxiety to learn second language. Code-switching also removes hesitations of second language learners.
It helps to remove confusions related to the concepts of second language learning. It gives students the confidence in the
scheme of the things. Response of the participants signifies that code switching regulates the structural process of brain
smoothly in second language learning/teaching.
A very sagacious investigation of the data highlights that code switching is a conversational approach in second
language learning/teaching. Moreover, it is also found that code switching is a genuine need in a bilingual society because
it is easy to use in such scenario. It develops communication skills in social setting. Keen observation leads to some more
traces in the existing data as code-switching creates friendliness between students and teachers. Furthermore, it helps
explaining socio-cultural items/ideas in a better way.
Profound study of the statistical data shows that the value of mean, std. deviation and sig. (2-tailed) was
determined for all the variables. Through the analysis and empirical observation of the collected data, it is found that the
code switching enhances the students’ comprehension of second language. There is no negative effect of code switching
on the language learning process. The researcher reached at this conclusion by conducting a survey through a questionnaire
comprising thirty items on Likert scale. Opinion was collected from the English language teachers of various public and
private sectors institutes of Lahore. For the analysis of the data SPSS twenty one version was used. Descriptive statistics
was applied on the data and after that some more valuable tests were applied to determine the values of mean, std. deviation
and sig. (2-tailed). Thus, the researcher proved that code switching improves the performance of second language teachers.
On the other hand students can furbish their ideas and concepts in a much better way with the assistance of code switching.
Moreover, in learning second language not only the students but the teachers also have more than positive attitude towards
code switching. The teachers usually execute code switching in teaching and they claim to get positive results.
The study justifies that code-switching gives students the confidence to learn a second language, on the other
hand it also improves the performance of second language teachers. This proves that teachers should switch the codes in
English language classrooms. This investigation also reveals that code switching can be helpful for the students to remove
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confusions related to the concepts of second language learning and it helps to reduce mental stress in second language
learning. Researcher finds that code switching supports the logical reasoning of second language learning. This study has
marked glaring results to point out that teachers understand the utility and importance of code-switching in the bilingual
classroom discourse. Keeping in mind the whole investigation and its objective, if we narrow down the issues of bilingual
classrooms in connection with Pakistani scenario, it can be confidently claimed that code switching can satiate the needs
of the students.
On the basis of this investigation some of the points are recommended by the researcher as under:
1. Keeping in view the level of the students, a strategy of code switching should be introduced for teaching English
in bilingual classrooms.
2. A clear-cut language policy should be streamlined in this regard.
3. Students and teachers should be aware of the limitations of code switching because an unwise exploitation of
code switching could have long-lasting harmful subsidiary consequences.
4. Code switching should be used in bilingual classes because it helps explaining socio-cultural items/ideas in a
5. To develop the interest of the second language learners, code switching should properly be utilized in the classes.
6. Teachers should employ positive attitude towards code switching as a tool.
7. It is also suggested that code switching should reflect linguistic competence of the English language teachers.
8. Code switching should be objective-based and context-based as far as the needs of the learners and context are
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