A Sociolinguistic Perspective of Codeswitching in French as a Foreign Language Class in Malta and its Implications for Learning

  • Anne-Marie BezzinaEmail author
  • Joanne Gauci
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 26)


Codeswitching (CS) between Maltese L1, English L2 and French as the target language (TL) in the French as a Foreign language (FFL) classroom in bilingual Malta is known to be a widespread reality, despite many French teachers’ claims that ideally lessons should be delivered in French only (Bezzina, Malta Rev Educ Res 10:277–296, 2016). The aim of this study is to evaluate, on the basis of corpus analysis, whether a wise use of previously known languages in the Foreign Language (FL) classroom can support the learning of the FL. Recordings of 16 FFL lessons delivered at two different learning levels by two teachers in Maltese secondary schools give indications as to the quantitative extent of the use of the L1, L2 and French L3 in these contexts. A qualitative analysis is carried out of the functions fulfilled in the teachers’ discourse by each of the three languages involved in the Maltese FFL context. The corpus analysis takes into account the structural manifestation of language juxtaposition. Interviews with the two teachers involved in the sampling exercise provide participants’ feedback on the analysis results. These results endorse literature attesting that L1 use in FL classrooms allows better content management and transmission, and helps establish a generally positive classroom ambiance. An interpretation is attempted of the social meaning of the observed switching in the context of the societal factors that mark language use in bilingual Malta, and the relationship between the macro- and micro-sociolinguistic dimensions of CS in the FL classroom is investigated.


Language alternation Functions Structure Teacher talk Dominant language Social meaning 


  1. Abela, C. (2011). Perceptions of the use of different languages in the teaching of French in Malta. Unpublished dissertation (B. Ed. (Hons.), University of Malta.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmad, B. H. (2009). Teachers’ code-switching in classroom instructions for low English proficient learners. English Language Teaching, 2, 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aquilina, T. (2012). Language use during the teaching and learning of German as a foreign language in Malta. Unpublished dissertation (B. Ed. (Hons.), University of Malta.Google Scholar
  4. Bezzina, A. M. (2016). Teachers’ understanding of the use of language as medium of instruction in French as a foreign language lessons. Malta Review of Educational Research, 10(2), 277–296.Google Scholar
  5. Bezzina, A. M. (2017). Translanguaging practices in the teaching of French as a foreign language in Malta. Malta Review of Educational Research, 11(1), 75–95.Google Scholar
  6. Bondin, S. (2014). La réalisation de l’interaction verbale en français par des collégiens et des lycéens maltais. Unpublished dissertation (B. Ed. (Hons.), University of Malta.Google Scholar
  7. Boztepe, E. (2003) Issues in code-switching: Competing theories and models. Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, 3(2), 1–27.Google Scholar
  8. Bremnes, M. (2013). L’usage de l’alternance codique dans les cours de français en Norvège. Analyse de son utilisation dans trois cours de première année au lycée. Unpublished dissertation (Master), University of Bergen.Google Scholar
  9. Busuttil Bezzina, A. M. (2013). La variation stylistique en maltais. Etude des usages concrets de la langue appuyée sur une approche contrastive des phénomènes variationnels en maltais et en français. Unpublished thesis (PhD), Université Paris Nanterre/University of Malta.Google Scholar
  10. Cambra, M. (1997). Gestion des langues en classe de langue étrangère. Le poids des représentations de l’enseignant. Études de linguistique appliquée, 108, 423–432.Google Scholar
  11. Camilleri, A. (1995). Bilingualism in education. The Maltese experience. Heidelberg: Julius Groos Verlag.Google Scholar
  12. Camilleri Grima, A. (2001). Language values and identities: Codeswitching in secondary classrooms in Malta. In M. Heller & M. Martin-Jones (Eds.), Voices of authority. Education and linguistic difference (pp. 213–234). London: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  13. Camilleri Grima, A. (2003). ‘Do as I say not as I do.’ Legitimate language in bilingual Malta. In L. Huss, A. Camilleri Grima, & K. A. King (Eds.), Transcending monolingualism. Linguistic revitalisation in education (pp. 53–65). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  14. Camilleri Grima, A. (2013). A select review of bilingualism in education in Malta. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 16, 553–569. Scholar
  15. Camilleri Grima, A., & Caruana, S. (2016). Interaction and approximation to the target language during Italian lessons in Malta. Malta Review of Educational Research, 10(2), 253–275.Google Scholar
  16. Caruana, S. (2012). Italian in Malta: A socio-educational perspective. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 16, 602–614. Scholar
  17. Caruana, S., & Camilleri Grima, A. (2014, September). L’italiano a Malta e la commutazione di codice in contesti didattici. Paper presented at the conference of the SLI, Udine.Google Scholar
  18. Castellotti, V. (2001). La langue maternelle en classe de langue étrangère. Paris: Clé International.Google Scholar
  19. Causa, M. (1996). L’alternance codique dans le discours de l’enseignant: entre transmission de connaissances et interaction. Les Carnets du Cediscor, 4, 111–129.Google Scholar
  20. Causa, M. (1998). Maintien, transformation et disparition de l’alternance codique dans le discours de l’enseignant, du niveau débutant au niveau avancé. Etudes de linguistique appliquée, 108, 457–465.Google Scholar
  21. Cazden, C. (1988). Classroom discourse. Portsmouth: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  22. Dalli, C. (forthcoming). Translanguaging in the Spanish as a foreign language classroom in Malta: Practices and perspectives. Unpublished Masters in Teaching and Learning dissertation, University of Malta.Google Scholar
  23. Diacono, Ġ. (1977). Għeltijiet u Barbariżmi fil-Malti. Valletta: Pubblikazzjonijiet Diacono.Google Scholar
  24. Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education – Curriculum Management and E-Learning Department. (2011). Handbook for the teaching of German as a foreign language. Malta: DQSE.Google Scholar
  25. Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education – Curriculum Management and E-Learning Department. (2012a). French as a foreign language: Teaching objectives and learning outcomes form 1, form 2. Malta: DQSE.Google Scholar
  26. Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education – Curriculum Management and E-Learning Department. (2012b). Handbook for the teaching of French as a foreign language. Malta: DQSE.Google Scholar
  27. Education Division – Centre Franco-Maltais – Department Of Curriculum Management. (2001–2002+). Programmes de français. Version NMC/CMN. Malta: Education Division.Google Scholar
  28. Ehrhart, S. (2002). L’alternance codique dans le cours de langue: le rôle de l’enseignant dans l’interaction avec l’élève – Synthèse à partir d’énoncés recueillis dans les écoles primaires de la Sarre. In A. M. Lorenzo Suarez, F. Ramallo, & F. X. Rodriguez-Yanez (Eds.), Proceedings from the Second International Symposium on Bilingualism, University of Vigo, October 2002. Available from: Accessed 3 Sept 2016.Google Scholar
  29. Farrell, M. P., & Ventura, F. (1998). Words and understanding in physics. Language and Education, 12(4), 243–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Farrugia, M. T. (2009). Reflections on a medium of instruction policy for Mathematics in Malta. In R. Barwell (Ed.), Multilingualism in mathematics classrooms (pp. 97–112). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  31. Farrugia, Y., & Muscat, C. (2012). Discourse in secondary physics classrooms. Unpublished dissertation (B. Ed. (Hons.), University of Malta.Google Scholar
  32. Garcia, O. (2011). Theorizing translanguaging for educators. Celic, Ch. Seltzer, K. Translanguaging: A Cuny-Nysieb guide for educators. New York: Cuny-Nysieb, 1–6.Google Scholar
  33. Gauci, H. (2011). Teacher codeswitching in the Italian second language classroom in Malta. Unpublished dissertation (M. Ed.), University of Malta.Google Scholar
  34. Gauci, J. (2016). L’alternance codique en classe de FLE dans des collèges maltais: représentations et constatations. Unpublished dissertation (B.Ed. (Hons.), University of Malta.Google Scholar
  35. Gauci, H., & Camilleri Grima, A. (2012). Codeswitching as a tool in teaching Italian in Malta. International Journal of Bilingual Education in Malta, 16, 615–631. Scholar
  36. Giles, H., & Powesland, P. (1975). A social psychological model of speech diversity. In H. Giles & P. Powesland (Eds.), Speech style and social evaluation (pp. 154–170). New York: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  37. Giles, H., & Smith, P. (1979). Accommodation theory: Optimal levels of convergence. In H. Giles & R. N. St. Clair (Eds.), Language and social psychology (pp. 45–65). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  38. Greggio, S., & Gil, G. (2007). Teachers’ and learners’ use of code switching in the English as a foreign language classroom: A qualitative study. Linguagem & Ensino, 10(2), 371–393.Google Scholar
  39. Lee, J. H., & Macaro, E. (2013). Investigating age in the use of L1 or English-only instruction: Vocabulary acquisition by Korean EFL learners. The Modern Language Journal, 97(4), 887–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Levine, G. S. (2011). Code choice in the language classroom. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  41. Maarfia, N. (2008). L’alternance codique en classe de français en deuxième année primaire: Entre fonction communicative et fonction didactique. Synergies Algérie, 2, 93–107.Google Scholar
  42. Macaro, E. (2001). Analysing student teachers’ codeswitching in foreign language classrooms: Theories and decision making. The Modern Language Journal, 85(4), 531–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Molander, L. (2004). L’alternance codique en classe d’immersion: délimitation, interprétation et fonction interactionnelle. Sociolinguistica, 18(1), 86–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moore, D. (1996). Bouées transcodiques en situation immersive ou comment interagir avec deux langues quand on apprend une langue étrangère à l’école. Acquisition et interaction en langue étrangère, 7, 95–121.Google Scholar
  45. Moore, D. (2002). Code-switching and learning in the classroom. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 5, 279–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ramirez, A. G., & Milk, R. D. (1986). Notions of grammaticality among teachers of bilingual pupils. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 495–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Soku, D. (2014). Alternance codique en classe de FLE: Raisons d’ordre pédagogique chez les enseignants et facteurs de motivation chez les apprenants. Developing Country Studies, 4(20), 1–10.Google Scholar
  48. Sollars, A. (1988). Readability of science textbooks in forms 1 and 2 in education. The Journal of the Faculty of Education, 3(2), 19–26.Google Scholar
  49. Stolz, J. (2011). L’alternance codique dans l’enseignement du FLE. Etude quantitative et qualitative de la production orale d’interlocuteurs suédophones en classe de lycée. Göteborg: Linnaeus University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Thompson, G. L., & Harrison, K. (2014). Language use in the foreign language classroom. Foreign Language Annals, 47(2), 321–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ventura, F. (1991). Language and the science curriculum in education. The Journal of the Faculty of Education, 4(32), 8–15.Google Scholar
  52. Yiboe, K. T. (2010). Enseignement/apprentissage du français au Ghana: écarts entre la culture d’enseignement et la culture d’apprentissage. Online thesis (PhD), University of Strasbourg. Available from: Accessed 24 Mar 2016.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MaltaMsidaMalta
  2. 2.St. Martin’s CollegeMsidaMalta

Personalised recommendations