The impact of teacher cognition on code-switching in Arabic classrooms
This study aims to investigate the code-switching practices by Arabic teachers working in independent Arabic schools in Sydney, Australia. Central to the investigation is the relationships between their code-switching practices and their stated beliefs. Two types of code-switching are considered: between first language (L1) and second language (L2), and between colloquial and standard varieties of Arabic.
The use of L1 (in this case English) in the foreign language classroom is a contentious issue. It is discouraged by proponents of the communicative approach who consider the classroom to be a site for immersion in the target language. While L1 use has been extensively investigated in regard to the teaching of English, there has been little research work conducted on teacher code-switching during Arabic language teaching. In addition, there is growing interest in the study of Arabic diglossia, the situation where two distinct varieties exist in a language. Fusha (Standard language) functions as a formal written language and is considered the official language of the Arab countries. Ammiya (colloquial language) consists of different spoken regional dialects (vernaculars) depending mainly on the different geographical areas. While there has been interest in the area of Arabic diglossic code-switching or diglossic switching between Fusha and Ammiya varieties in a range of contexts, research investigating the use of code-switching between Arabic language varieties in the classroom context is limited.
Data were collected using three methods (questionnaires, classroom observations and interviews). The data revealed that L1/L2 (Standard or colloquial) code-switching was clustered around certain classroom functions such as instructing and explaining concepts. The patterns of code-switching between standard and colloquial variants were less systematic and depended more on the individual and the context. However, teacher beliefs, based on their education and experience, may sometimes differ from the orthodox view and even from the policy of the school. Teaching practices are not always consistent with their teaching beliefs. Inconsistencies were observed between the teachers’ stated beliefs and their actual practices in both L1/L2 and colloquial/standard code-switching. Teaching context, teacher experience, and language background were important in explaining these inconsistencies.
The findings reported in this study have the potential to contribute further understanding of the origins and effects of teacher code--switching beliefs and decisions in classrooms and to increase teacher awareness of the reasons for these choices.