Code Switching for Learning and Negotiating Meaning in an English-Medium University in South Africa

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As yet, very few South African studies have explored multilingual learning contexts in tertiary institutions in order to develop a better understanding of the role that students’ diverse primary languages play in meaning making in English speaking universities.This paper will report on the progress of a project which recorded informal learning groups both inside and outside the classrooms in the Commerce and Science Faculties at the University of Cape Town. The purpose of the project was to develop a better understanding of the code switching practices in informal learning groups in the university and to distinguish the forms and functions of these code switching practices. A particular focus has been to gain insights into the ways in which concepts transfer from one language to another in order to develop thinking on language and learning in multilingual contexts and extend theories of conceptual transfer. My data will show that transfer is not an automatic linguistic process but is far more complex than this for it is dependent as Halliday and Martin (1993) point out on the common ways in which experience is construed and on the variation from one language to another in describing the reality in which we are embedded.


Keywords: Code Switching, Negotiating Meaning, Multilingual Tertiary Institutions
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Associate Professor Moragh Paxton

Senior Lecturer, Language Development Group in Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town
Cape Town, Cape, South Africa

Dr Moragh Paxton is Co-ordinator of the Language Development Group at the University of Cape Town. She teaches academic literacy at the undergraduate and postgraduate level in a number of faculties and departments across the university. Her research interests are in language and literacy acquisition in academic settings and her PhD used linguistic and intertextual analysis of student writing to understand the acquisition of economics discourses.

Ref: L09P0704