Why not "English only"? : Patterns of code-switching between Swedish and English in Swedish upper secondary EFL education

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för språk (SPR)

Abstract: English education in Sweden tends to be viewed as a second language, rather than a foreign language. Therefore, it is generally expected that instruction is performed, and content is taught in English. However, previous research shows that English is generally not the sole language used, even in classrooms with explicit “English only” policies. The following essay has investigated how this translates into classroom practice through observations of classroom interactions between students and teachers, as well as between students and students. Three different teachers were observed at two upper secondary schools. Shorter interviews were also conducted with the teachers. The results showed large differences between observations, but some clear trends were observed nonetheless. Socializing and metalanguage were more prevalent than other code-switches among students, while floor-holding was very rare and in most observations, non-existent. All teachers claimed to use English as much as possible although they also recognized the utility of using Swedish as a tool in the classroom. The view that English should be used as the language of instruction to a great extent was additionally observed in teacher interviews. However, there were no categorical opinions arguing for “English only”. The teachers also largely concurred with the use of Swedish, or other first languages as a language of comparison. This was supported by observations in the classrooms and significant differences existed between teachers. An investigation with a larger cohort in this field could be fruitful for future researchers. The results of the study could be used to further examine strategies to find a balance in the classroom between English and Swedish. The differences between classrooms show that there is no clear consensus on the extent of Swedish use in the EFL classroom. In order to improve teaching it is important to know why students use code-switching and in what situations it might be helpful to them, such as in translation or grammatical rules. However, different classrooms may require different approaches, which highlight the importance of discussing these issues.

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