Where have we got to with codeswitching research, policy and practice?

Joint Faculty of Education (HKU) & Oxford Education Society HK Lecture

Speaker: Professor Ernesto Macaro, Professor of Applied Linguistics, and Director of the University of Oxford Department of Education.

15 June 2015 17:30 – 18:45
Room 205, Runme Shaw Building, HKU (The University of Hong Kong)

For enquiries, please contact Steven S K Kwok, OES Country Champion (Hong Kong), 2014-2017 at steven.s.k.kwok@sant.oxon.org. or Steven Kwok @ hotmail_28


Whether the first language (L1) of the learners should be used in second language (L2) classrooms is a discussion which stretches back over a hundred years. The potential presence of the L1 undoubtedly contributes to the inherent tensions in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in that CLT is an approach which rests largely on communication of meaning through the L2. The presence of the L1 also contributes to the tensions rapidly emerging in English Medium Instruction contexts (and even in European CLIL contexts) because here too the fundamental principle is that understanding the content of an academic subject is expected to occur through the medium of the L2. A possible reconciliation of this tension comes through associating naturalistic codeswitching with classroom codeswitching whereby communication of meaning can be achieved through two or more languages. Recently theorists and commentators have been arguing for the term ‘translaguaging’ to be used instead of codeswitching. However, whether for codeswitching or translanguaging, a clear theoretical framework for and an optimal balance between L1 and L2 distribution in classroom interaction has still to be established as is a consensus regarding what the outcomes of language education should be. What we therefore need is a clear theory-led research agenda, one which not only addresses the immediate interactional challenges found in L2 classrooms but also recognizes the long term strategic and linguistic development of the students in those classrooms. This talk will set out what I believe the agenda should be and, focusing particularly on vocabulary acquisition, will present research carried out at Oxford which has begun to address that agenda.