Code-switching in Botswana’s ESL Classrooms: A Paradox of Linguistic Policy in Education

  •  Ambrose B. Chimbganda    
  •  Tsaona S. Mokgwathi    


Code-switching in the classroom is known to take place across a wide range of subjects in multilingual settings in Africa and, indeed, throughout the world; yet it is often regarded pejoratively by some educational policy makers. This article looks at code-switching (CS) in Botswana’s senior secondary schools within the context of the country’s language-in-education policy, which states that English is the official language of learning and teaching while Setswana is the national language used for identity, unity and national pride. The data are derived from an ethnographic study conducted at four high schools in the north-eastern part of the country, which is uniquely multilingual. The findings indicate that code-switching from English to Setswana is quite prevalent in content subjects, and is used as a pedagogic resource to clarify the knowledge of the subject matter and to reduce the social distance between the teacher and learners. From the findings, it is suggested that code-switching in ESL classrooms in Botswana should be recognized not only as a communicative strategy for instruction, but also as a way of creating classroom warmth and friendliness.

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