Code Choice in the Foreign Language Classroom

Texas Governors Room, TX Union 3.116

The social and cultural “turn” in language education of recent years has helped move language teaching and curriculum design away from many of the more rigid dogmas of earlier generations, but the issue of the roles of the learners’ first language in language pedagogy and classroom interaction is far from settled. Some follow a strict “exclusive target language” pedagogy, while others “resort to” the use of the first language for a variety of purposes. But underlying these competing views is the perspective of the first language as an impediment to second-language learning. Part of the reason for this is the tenacity of “monolingualist” cultural discourses and conceptualizations of the language classroom as separate from—or worse, irrelevant to—the “real world” outside the classroom, and in particular the real world of multilingual language users. Another factor can be found in language pedagogy and classroom practice, which I call the “code choice status quo” whereby the second language remains a marked code choice. Following sociocultural theory and ecological perspectives of language and learning and based on findings of research on classroom code-switching and code choice, this presentation lays out an approach to the language classroom as a multilingual social space in which learners and teacher study, negotiate, and co-construct code choice norms toward the dynamic, creative, and pedagogically effective use of both the target language and the learners’ first language(s).

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