Code-Switching in Mathematics Teaching in Early Childhood Education: Switching From English to the Home Language


In communication and linguistics, code-switching (CS) refers to the process of using two or more languages in speech. South Africa is a multi-lingual and multi-racial society. Schools form part of societies, therefore it is to be expected that this ‘multi-ness’ will also be evident in schools. In many South African schools, children are taught two languages namely their 1Home Language (HL) and a Second Language (SL). Education policy proposes that subjects in primary schools be taught in the school’s Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT), which is often English. However, teachers often code-switch between the LOLT and their 2mother tongue. This article examines the disadvantages and benefits of CS in the teaching of Mathematics in South African primary schools. Interviews were conducted with thirty-five teachers and seventy-eight learners from primary schools that have English as a LOLT, but where most teachers and learners have Sesotho as a HL. The findings revealed that teachers generally code-switch because they express themselves better in Sesotho, and they believe that learners will understand Mathematics better if some concepts are explained in Sesotho. The majority of the Sesotho-speaking learners reported that they appreciate it when the teachers explain Mathematics in English and Sesotho. However, learners who do not speak Sesotho claimed that they feel lost when teachers ‘teach’ Mathematics in Sesotho. The study concluded that CS is beneficial for teachers and for some learners, but teachers need to be cognisant of the fact that there are learners in their classes who do not speak and understand Sesotho.

Author Information
Jaysveree Louw, Central University of Technology, South Africa

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2023
Stream: Primary & Secondary Education

This paper is part of the ACE2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Louw J. (2024) Code-Switching in Mathematics Teaching in Early Childhood Education: Switching From English to the Home Language ISSN: 2186-5892 The Asian Conference on Education 2023: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon