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Code Switching In Malaysia Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2951 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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English is taught in Malaysia schools as second language. Government has done lots of effort in order to help students to achieve better result in English subject. The introduction of English as the medium of lesson for Mathematics and Science has raised mixed effects among the students. The scenario known as code-switching has occurred everywhere in Malaysia and it has created the interest among the linguists in Malaysia itself.

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Code-switching is where two languages or more are used in one communication. Muthusamy (2010) states that code-switching can be defined as switching from one language code to another during single communication event. Zakaria & Kalong (2010) defined code-switching as the use of more than one language in a conversation. Code-switching among Malaysian has been used from primary, secondary, tertiary educations and in everyday life. It is a scenario that has brought the attention whether the code-switching scenario occurs in order to fill the gap between the speakers and listeners or it just the way Malaysian communicate to each other.

In the present paper, the reasons and types of code-switching are investigated. It is hypothesized that code-switching in Malaysian has been used as a tool for a communication and has been used to convey the message in every level of Malaysian community. The following eight literature reviews attempt to demonstrate and support the hypothesis by looking at school level, tertiary educational level, in organizational level and community level.

School level

Students’ background has been identified as one of the important role in code-switching. Muthusamy (2010) conducted a study on the patterns of code-switching among secondary students and how the structure of code-switching is formed in linguistic aspect. He also examined on students’ dominance in language choice based on their family background. He conducted a survey by gathered 20 students from different ethnicities and given the topic to discuss. The discussions were divided into two section, multi ethnic group and same ethnic group. He also administered a questionnaire comprising 45 questions in order to gain information about the students’ background. He used Matrix Language Frame Model by Myers-Scotton (2001) in analyzing the data. In this study he found the code-switching in secondary school students is comparatively higher. He identified the use of English as matrix language is among students with highly educated and socio-economic background. Other students from low socio-economic background used their mother tongue language as matrix language. One limitation of the study is the choice of twenty students (twelve Indians, four Malays and four Chinese) should be equally selected. Another limitation is only one rural school has been selected in the study, it should be two schools because the equal amount of schools from urban, suburban and rural areas. From the study, students even in their group of ethnic or different group of ethnic will use code-switching in their conversation. The reason can be seen as the implication of the lack of vocabulary.

Next, for low proficient students, teachers need to use the strategy to transfer the knowledge and the contents to students. In a research article by Ahmad (2009), the study examined a) a significance relationship between code-switching and learners’ positive affective learning state and b) relationship between code-switching and learners’ learning success. Ahmad (2009) had administered a set of questionnaire contains 20 questions to 257 respondents. The data gathered from questionnaire was analyzed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation analysis and the study found that learners perceived code-switching strategy as positive. Ahmad (2009) concluded that the necessity of code-switching strategy for low proficient learners in helping the students to learn the language and the contents of lesson. One limitation in the study is identified when the study only focus on students’ perception towards code-switching used by teacher. Study should also focus on using code-switching in teaching methods and how effective to low proficient students. Thus, in this study, code-switching has been identified as a tool to help low proficient students to gain knowledge by adding their mother tongue language.

Muthusamy (2009) examined the functions and reason for code-switching in Malaysia, for Tamil students. In the study, five major functions of code-switching have been identified; a)Communication, b)Conceptual, c) Emphasis, d) Interlocution and e)Lexicon (Muthusamy,2009). 13 students were involved and their conversation had been recorded and analyzed using Lalita Malik (1994) Reason for Code-switching table. The study found the main reason for code-switching among Tamil students when they emphasized on habitual expression because of their behavior. The study also suggested even English is dominant, Tamil speakers have the tendency to insert Tamil language if possible. One limitation of this study is the economic background of the Tamil speakers was not put into consideration. The study should identify the economic background of the speakers in order to get more significant result of the study. When the group of same ethnic of students involve in conversation, students with good command of English will use few words from their mother tongue language to communicate with other students. It is understandable because they will try to illustrate their ethnicity of their group.

Teacher also used code-switching when they need to repeat the word to make sure the students have developed the understanding in the lesson. Then & Ting (2009) examined the discourse function of teacher code-switching in secondary schools English and Science classrooms in Malaysia. The class sessions were recorded and then the data was analyzed using Semantic Model Encompassing Situational and Metaphorical Code-Switching by Gumperz (1982). Then & Ting (2009) found that the functions of code-switching in the study are Reiteration (41.67%), Message Qualification (37.5%), Interjections (8.33%), Quotations (6.25%), Personalization or Objectivization (2.08%), Addressee Specification (2.08%) and Situational Switching (2.08%). The study has divided the lessons into two categories, Teacher-fronted Content Lessons (teacher giving explanations and giving inputs to students) and Teacher-facilitated English Lesson (teacher asking students in order to build their response). The higher percentage of Reiteration is shown in Teacher-fronted Content Lesson because the needs of teacher to repeat the information in two languages to make sure students are able to understand the content. In second category, code-switching is not used for explanation but it is used in Personalization. Teacher used this strategy to quote students sentences while students responding to the questions. One limitation of this study is the use of one ethnic of teacher (Chinese), the correlation may have been significantly different when teachers from other ethnics have been involved. It is clear that the reason of code-switching in this study is to make sure the students will understand the contents of the lesson. Code-switching is used in this study to check the students understanding towards the lesson.

Tertiary Educational Level

Next, the topic of in relation to code-switching is researches in tertiary educational level. After we investigated the scenario in code-switching in secondary schools, the next review will touch on the scenario of code switching in tertiary education. The students have taken MUET (Malaysia University English Test) before enter the universities. So the students will be graded from Band 1 (lowest) to Band 6 (highest). In the universities, code-switching occurs even during lectures. The lecturers and students use code-switching while discussing certain topics. Yusuf (2009) examined the functions of code-switching from Malay language to English in bilingual classroom. Yusof (2009) collected the data from a class meeting with 114 students. The lecture was recorded and transcribed when code-switching occurred. The data gathered and analyzed using theoretical frameworks from Rayfield (1970), Gumperz (1982) and Jacobson & Osman (1987). The analysis was conducted to look at conversational functions and the percentage in occurrence of code-switching. During the lecture, Malay language was used and change to English. The research found that the functions of code-switching are Loanwords (26.35%), Technical Term (18.75%), Hesitation (13.88%), Quotations (11.80%), Transfers of Subconscious Markers (9.03%), Addressee Specification(2.08%), Interjections (2.08%), Message Qualification (2.08%), Number (2.08%), Parenthetic Remark (2.08%), Reiteration ( 1.38%) and Objectivization (1.38%). Yusof (2009) assumed that the reason for higher percentage of loanwords because of the insufficient of words that have similar meaning in language, used assimilated borrowed words into the language and to emphasis the topic. One limitation of the study is the observation only in one classroom session. The research should study the students in first semester because they are new to the course and do not have prior knowledge about the course. It will show the significant result because the study can investigate how lecturer uses code-switching strategies to deliver the contents in the lesson. Code-switching should be allowed during class discussion because it is clearly will encourage students to share and gain knowledge in the classroom. In written assignment, teachers and lecturers should not allow the students to use code-switching because students should have enough knowledge during the class discussion.

Even for Malaysian that proficient in English will use code-switching while having conversation within their group. In the research article by Zakaria & Kalong (2010), reasons and types of code-switching were examined during informal conversation among group of TESL students in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). They conducted the study on four TESL students by using 47 minutes of recording while the students watching television. Two of the respondents were identified to have excellent proficiency in English while other two of them were identified as good in English. The study has identified the reason for code-switching. The reasons are to show solidarity and to build an intimate and close relationship among the group members, to signal group membership and local identification, elaborate details, to emphasize details, to specify and to specify the addressee (Zakaria & Kalong, 2010). While the types of code-switching had been identified in this research were: 1) intra-sentential (in sentences), code-switching was identified when the participants used a word or clause of English in one sentence. 2) Intra-sentential (between sentences), happened when participants used one sentence of Bahasa Melayu and then changed the next sentence in English. 3) Situational code-switching happened when participants discussed about certain issue or event using different language and 4) metaphorical code-switching happened when participants used English words to express their feeling because they might think that the English words had better impact in expressing their feeling. The result from the study has shown us that code-switching can be used as a tool to help the TESL students to learn communication skill but at the same time it was not compromised their proficiency in English. One limitation of the study is it should be conducted in different environment. Study can be conducted while students are having discussion without interference of television to study the significant of code-switching among TESL students. The mixture of code-switching patterns occurs because the speakers use it unconsciously. The main reason is the exposure of certain words is high in their life and they use English to signal that they are TESL students.

In Organizational Level

Next, the topic in relation to code-switching is research in organizational level. Code-switching is also occurred in working environment, it has been studied by Ariffin & Shameem (2009), a specific question has addressed for guiding the study, how code switching is employed in achieving one’s communicative intent in Bahasa Melayu to English bilingual conversation during organizational training sessions? Ariffin & Shameem (2009) have examined the purpose of code-switching and how it is used to achieve the speakers’ communicative intents. Ariffin & Shameem (2009) conducted the research in organization training sessions by recording the speech from trainers. In this study, Arifin & Shameem (2009) have identified that code-switching occurred intentionally and not to show the lack of proficiency. The study found eleven functions of code-switching and all results combined confirm the hypothesis that code-switching can be employed by looking at these functions: to signal social relationship, to signal language preference, to obviate difficulties, to frame discourse, to contrast personalization and objectivization, to convey cultural-expressive message, to dramatized keywords, to lower language barriers, to maintain the appropriateness of context, to show membership and affiliation with others and to reiterate messages(Ariffin & Shameem, 2009). One limitation of the study is the used of one training session. Future study can focus more on other situations such as during meeting, entertaining customers and during lunch break among the staffs in same organization.

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In Community Level

Finally, the topic in relation of code-switching is research in community level. Bakar (2009) has investigated code-switching in Malay by isolating and concentrating on Kuala Lumpur Malay. The research has been conducted by interviewed and the speaker responses have been recorded. The study found the use of English is higher in Kuala Lumpur Malay speakers. The study has identified that words borrowed from English in Kuala Lumpur Malay lexicon (Bakar,2009). The study also examined code-switching in phonology and morphology aspect. In other finding, female has higher of imported words from English in their speech compared to male. The study suggested that the lack of Malay language to support the translation of terminology in instructional medium in school as the factor of code-switching in Kuala Lumpur Malay speakers. One limitation to this study is the researcher should conduct the study on different economic background in Kuala Lumpur Malay in order to show the significant use of code-switching. Another limitation is the study of code-switching in Malay sub-ethnics such as Java, Mandailing, Bugis and Kelantanese people in Kuala Lumpur.

Taken together, the result from the studies indicate that the four levels in society play an important role in code-switching (Muthusamy, 2009, 2010; Ahmad, 2009; Then & Ting, 2009; Yusuf, 2009; Zakaria & Kalong, 2010; Ariffin & Shameem, 2009; Bakar, 2009). The reasons from code-switching are derived from the need to transfer the information during communication.

It can be assumed from these eight literature reviews that code-switching has a big impact in enhancing communication skills. The different levels between speakers and listeners can be narrowed down by using code-switching. Code-switching also can be used as the tool to replace certain words and terminologies in the higher educational contents where English is the main source and Bahasa Melayu still lacked of its translation.

Code switching can also be identified as the result of poor or inconsistency in government language policy in Malaysia educational system. The introduction of English as the medium of teaching Science and Mathematics has sparked the interests in students to learn English but the lacked of vocabulary has made the thing worse. When the students are comfortable learning those subjects in English, Malaysian government has taken a backward step by introducing Bahasa Melayu as medium in teaching those subjects. This move has created a vacuum in students’ instructional language and their proficiency in English.

Most of the methods in the studies are using Conversation Analysis, where the researchers videotaped or recorded the conversation in their study. The weakness of this method is the researcher must have access to the language that being used by the participants. It also time consuming because the researchers need to transcribe into written text. That is why some studies only used minimum number of participants. The use of Ethnographic Methods while investigating code-switching can be done in order to identify the tendency of one ethnic to retain their own language while communicating. Another method is investigating code-switching using literature analysis. Literature is accessible to everybody.

In future, the study of code-switching should be conducted in pre-school students where now parents tend to send their children to English-based kindergarten and pre-school. The study can investigate how the early exposure of second language or foreign language to young children will help to develop code-switching. Another study can focus on how young children from inter-racial marriage manage with code-switching in their family.


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