Journal for Language Teaching

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Scaffolded Code-switching: A resource for achieving academic literacy?

R-M McCabe


The aim of this paper is to establish whether code-switching is still common practice in rural Limpopo as it was 16 years ago (McCabe, 1996) and if so, to suggest ways to use it as a resource to aid comprehension of English and to explicitly teach cognitive skills and academic literacy. Many rural South African schools have chosen English as a medium of instruction (MoI) from grade 4; and consequently, English second language learners need to simultaneously master English language skills, content and academic literacy. Particularly in rural schools, English MoI has led to code-switching between the mother tongue (L1) and English. Through an English Language Teaching (ELT) lens, code-switching (CS) is generally viewed as a reflection of a language deficiency of the speaker, language interference and an obstacle to learning. This view, however, ignores  codeswitching’s functionality and its potential to assist the achievement of academic literacy. CS, clearly an inevitable component of our rural classrooms, could be used as a resource at school from the intermediate phase, through secondary school and to a limited extent at university. CS can be ‘scaffolded’ at school and gradually ‘faded’ as learners advance through secondary school and enter tertiary institutions.

Keywords: code-switching, translanguaging, academic literacy, medium of instruction, English as second language

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