“I started the class in English… y la continué en Español”: an auto-ethnographical, qualitative and quantitative research study on the teacher’s code-switching in the EFL classroom





Cabrera, Martha

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University of St Mark and St John



The use of the target language only for English Language Teaching (ELT) has been a debate within professional discussion. It has been assumed that English is best taught without the use of the learners’ L1. Recently, however, this English-­‐only assumption has been increasingly questioned and the role of L1 as a tool for learning ELT is being reassessed. Apart from this belief and assumption, there exists a personal interest on my part in discovering my students’ attitude toward the target language only use. Because I grew up code-­‐switching from a young age it seems natural to me to do it in everyday conversation and this reflects purpose and logic. This switch happens quite often in my everyday communication at home and very much so in my EFL classes. The data reports on two questionnaires and audio recording of samples of possible functions for code-­‐switching in class. The questionnaires were applied to my students, and the other to my EFL colleagues. The questionnaire to the students was intended to find out whether they were aware of their teacher’s code-­‐switching in the classroom and whether they held a positive or negative attitude towards it. The questionnaire to the EFL teachers was intended to compare and contrast my code-­‐switching with my colleagues’ and identify their attitude towards this L1 use. Although there is variation between students and teachers findings, the questionnaires revealed that my students and colleagues did see a range of useful functions to the use of L1 in their teaching and hold a positive attitude towards it. Further research is suggested for the extent to which the L1 should be used in the ELT classes. El uso exclusivo del idioma meta en la docencia del inglés como segunda lengua (L2) ha sido tema de debate dentro de la profesión. Se ha asumido que es mejor enseñar el inglés sin recurrir a la lengua nativa (L1) del alumno. Sin embargo, se ha cuestionado recientemente esta creencia en el uso exclusivo de la L2, y se está revalorando el papel de la L1 como herramienta para aprender el inglés. Mi interés personal en descubrir la actitud de los alumnos ante el uso exclusivo de la L2 se debe a que me crié en la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos, en una cultura donde es común el “code-switching”, o alternancia entre códigos, que tiene una lógica y unos propósitos identificables. Para este trabajo apliqué cuestionarios a alumnos y colegas para conocer su actitud ante la alternancia entre códigos. También grabé en audio partes de la clase para tratar de discernir las funciones que perseguían sus cambios de idioma. Los alumnos y colegas expresaron una actitud positiva hacia la alternancia entre códigos, pues le veían varias funciones.

Palabras clave

English Language Teaching, Code-switching, Docencia del Inglés, Alternancia entre Códigos


Cabrera, M. (2014) “I started the class in English… y la continué en Español”: An Auto-­‐ethnographical, Qualitative and Quantitative research study on the Teacher’s code-­‐switching in the EFL classroom. Master of Arts by advanced study in Education (special field: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), University of St Mark and St John