Why Chinese-English code-switching is so difficult to avoid: Medium-of instruction-induced code-switching in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Chor Shing David LI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers

Abstract

Code-switching and medium of learning and teaching are traditionally seen as distinct research areas. Research has shown that code-switching is commonly used to index the bilingual’s social and/or ethnolinguistic identity, or various conversational meanings in ongoing discourse (e.g., selecting addressee(s), changing the topic, signaling dispreference). In either case, referential meaning is generally regarded as more or less constant. To my knowledge there has been little empirical evidence of code-switching being attributed to the medium of learning and teaching. Empirical evidence was obtained from an experimental study involving 108 educated Chinese-English bilinguals in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The study, entitled ‘One day with only Cantonese/Mandarin’, required student participants to use only their dominant community language for one day, and to avoid using any other language(s) (cf. ‘breaching experiments’ / ‘revelation through disruption’, Harold Garfinkel 1967). Data arising from their rich and highly contextualized experiences were collected using two methods: reflective diary and focus group. The primary objective of the project was to find out under what circumstances bilingual students would perceive a need to code-switch. A lot of instructive findings were obtained. This paper focuses on EMI-induced code-switching from Chinese to English by examining the code-switchers’ own accounts of the reasons why they found it so difficult to avoid instantiating field-specific terminologies when the conversation touched upon concepts that were learned and taught through English. Similarly difficult to avoid were expressions belonging to what may be termed ‘institutional discourse’, such as course and programme titles, administrative practices, academic departments and support services, etc. The tendency of cognitive dependence on English was clearly much stronger among participants in Hong Kong than in Taiwan. The findings point toward a psycholinguistic ‘medium-of-learning effect’ on the development of bilinguality. The paper will end by briefly commenting on methodological concerns about the validity of self-reported data.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

Citation

Li, D. C. S. (2012, May). Why Chinese-English code-switching is so difficult to avoid: Medium-of instruction-induced code-switching in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Paper presented at the International Conference on Bilingualism and Comparative Linguistics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

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