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Bringing the Self into the Discourse: Pragmatic Considerations in Code-Switching

Teresa May A. Mundiz

· Volume I Issue I

One does not remove the self from the discourse, so explained one of my professors in college. There is always that ‘I’-ness from the writer that comes out of the short story, the play or the poem. It is both the literal and figurative ‘piece of the author’ imparted in the literary form.

And quite interestingly, a similar idea has been relayed in my Bilingualism class. The ‘self’ is as integral as the ‘other’ in a discourse or in an utterance. Discourse, as Woods (2006) put it, is “language plus context – by which I mean the context that we bring with us when we use language; the context that includes our experience, assumptions and expectations the context we change in our relationship with others, we both construct and negotiate our way through the social practices of the world we live in.” Thus, our interaction with another individual is almost always influenced on the things that make us. In her discussion on Dialogue and mutual understanding, Markova (2016) reflected that even one’s internal dialogues determine the “content and thematisation of topics” in one’s external interaction with another individual.

Even Pavlenko (2011), citing her previous works, problematized the experiences of immigrants in their assimilation of a new language. She discussed further the struggle of the immigrants in expressing themselves in a new language but still thinking in their native tongues.

In the Philippines, a more ‘accepting’ education system allows for the use of both Filipino and English as media of instructions, albeit on specific subject areas. This has been institutionalized in the 1987 Constitution, Article XIV, Sections 6 and 7. Bernardo attempted to review on the bilingual education in the country, with focus on code-switching as part of the classroom instruction (2005). In turn, Gonzales (1999, as cited in Bernardo 2005) appealed for a more flexible and tolerant use of language in education, and considered code-switching as a “possible scaffold upon which higher levels of linguistic competencies can be developed for each of the two languages” (Bernardo, 2005).

From being a tertiary teacher, I have moved into the public senior high school. For a time, there has been that sense of automaticity that in my classes, it is expected that I shift from English into Cebuano just so I could provide further emphasis of the lesson. Bilingualism and code-switching are ‘invisible terms’ which come in handy every time in my classes. My colleagues in Bislig City Division have also agreed that switching back and forth between two or more languages is a positive compromise for the delivery of our respective lessons. This does not ‘depose’ our position as the teacher; instead, this has become complimentary activity as the school year progresses. Even so, there comes a point when the local language dominates the use of English in class. A teacher once confided that for most of her class sessions, she would either use Cebuano or Kamayo. English is assigned for technical terms and the usual classroom greetings. (I am reminded of this scenario on the 2012 Disney film Wreck-It Ralph. Not on the titular hero but on the character of Vanellope von Schweetz who experiences ‘glitch’ whenever she tries to join the race. This is almost similar to us trying to speak English, as if it is of a ‘totally’ different code. But this is another paper for me to explore.)

Now, as teachers, whose language standards are we trying to follow when we shift from English to a local language as we go on in our classroom instructions? How do we traffic bilingualism in our language classrooms?

Being bilingual has proven to be a ground for researches especially in trying to disprove and downplay such phenomenon (Byers-Heinlein, 2014; Leikin, 2012; Pavlenko, 2011, Ellis, E. 2016, Schrauf, 2009). However, this does not restrict other researchers to investigate on bilingualism and similar phenomenon on language and its acquisition. Notably, these researches on bilingualism and all its nuances have added to its growing literature.

Most researches done on bilingualism are focused on children in their cognitive development (Lee, 1996). In order to determine the effect of bilingualism in terms of mathematical and non-mathematical means among young preschoolers they were asked to participate on the study and the data gathering process, the children were a mix of monolinguals and bilinguals. The children performed ‘Picture Multiple Solution’ and ‘Creating equal number task’ in terms of mathematics. It revealed that language, bilingualism highly influence generally and their mathematical skills. However, between bilingual children and the monolinguals, the bilinguals are in favour. The results were able to determine that there are differences between the mono and bi development (Leikin, 2012).

Effects of bilingualism in the cognitive development of children find a positive avenue as bilingual children are more advanced than monolinguals in solving problems. Bialystok (2005) concluded that bilingualism hastens the general cognitive on children. Bialystok’s study finds a similarity on Yanagihara’s Study of Bilingual Education in the Philippines, Difference in Pupil’s Degree of Understanding between Learning Mathematics in Cebuano and English. In relation with Bialystok’s, the use of English or Filipino as the language of instruction and a regional language as auxiliary language depending on the subject, he tested 480 public elementary school 3rd, 4th and 6th graders on their degree of understanding in learning Mathematics using Cebuano and English (Yanagihara, 2007).

Bernardo (2005) reviewed on the existence of code-switching in Philippine classrooms. In support of the Bilingual Education Policy of the country, Bautista analyzed the Tagalog-English code-switching tendencies (1990, 1998 as cited in Bernardo, 2005). Other literature on code-switching defines this language behaviour as better understood in grammatical, socio-linguistic and pragmatic aspects (Cantone, 2007).

On the other hand, children in the USA are only proficient in terms of English and it has been dominating for almost 10 years. For others, only through bilingualism can the school curriculum properly learned but also to others, those who oppose bilingual education they support monolingual because they hold onto the unification of the country and to ensure that the societal language is given importance. Psychologists often question if bilingualism has its ‘desired goal’. Some studies show that bilingualism has negative effects but the study also possesses on how bilingualism is supposed to help the country (Lee, 1996).

On the other hand, an article in the Psychiatric Journal links dementia and bilingualism.

There are advantages and disadvantages of being either a monolingual or multilingual especially when one belongs to an ethnic minority but suffers dementia. Most of the studies present just show the relationship between cultural variation and dementia while some other aspects were not being put to research yet. Dementia patients who are multilingual need to be guided because they undergo some major changes in terms of their language, linguistic which cause the statements they say to be a mix of those languages. Language, on a study is defined as one of the essential component of a child’s social and cognitive development so being monolingual, or being able to learn one language is already a satisfaction. There are three types of bilingualism: compound bilingualism, coordinate bilingualism, and sub-coordinate bilingualism (Khan, 2011).

Mcgroarty (2011), in spite of the bilingual approaches and program types in the different levels, concluded with ongoing issues in the conduct of bilingual classes. Program goals and instructional designs should be streamlined in order to meet the bilingual instructional needs of the learners. “There is no single best model for bilingual instruction (Mcgroarty, 2011);” but this opens a range of possibilities for a successful programs.


Each experience is a language event. Being bilingual assigns us to various language experiences. As an individual, knowing two or more languages connects us to these varied timelines. And allowing these multiple languages to populate our cognitive processes makes us more adept and adaptable to the different discourses around us. As a teacher, bilingualism also finds its niche as we foster learning not just of the language but of knowledge and the world in general. Shifting from English to another language provides a richer experience not just for us as teachers, but primarily to our clients, our learners. Standards are arbitrary. In our classrooms, the learning experiences and negotiations of our students are of ultimate importance; hence, they set whatever standards we intend to implement.

Over all, bilingualism is a reflection of the diversity we experience as an individual, a race, a culture, an identity. A classroom is the representation of that diversity. Allowing our students to interact in a language that will enrich their experience is providing an audience for their voices. After all, one does not remove the self from the discourse.


Bernardo, A. B. I. (2005). Bilingual code-switching as a resource for learning and teaching: Alternative reflections on the language and education issue in the Philippines. In D. T. Dayag & J. S. Quakenbush (Eds.), Linguistics and language education in the Philippines and beyond: A Festschrift in honor of Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista (pp. 151-169). Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.

Bialystok, E. (2005). Consequences of Bilingualism Cognitive Development.
Byers-Heinlein, K. Bilingual Advantages, bilingual delays: Sometimes an illusion. Applied Psycholinguistics.

Cantone, K. F. (2007). Code-Switching. In Code Switching in Bilingual children. Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics , 37, 53-82.
Ellis, E. (2016). Bilingualism, Plurilingualism, and TESOL teachers. In The Plurilingual TESOL Teacher: The Hidden languaged lives of TESOL teachers and Why They Matter. Retrieved from Created from uniofmindanao-ebooks on 2018-04-25, pp. 75-102.
Khan, F. (2011). Being monolingual, bilingual or multilingual: pros and cons in patients with dementia. International Psychiatry , 96-98.
Lee, P. (1996). Cognitive Development in bilingual Children: A case for bilingual instruction in early childhood education. The Bilingual Research Journal , 20 (3 & 4), 499-522.
Leikin, M. (2012). The effect of bilingualism on creativity: Developmental and Educational perspectives , 432-446.
Markova, I. (2018, April 10). Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. In Rocci, A., & Saussure, L. D. (Eds.). (2016). Verbal communication. Retrieved from Created from uniofmindanao-ebooks on 2018-04-10 21:13:13.
Mcgroarty, M. (2001). Bilingual approaches to language learning. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.). Teaching English as a second or foreign language, 3rd ed. (pp. 345-356). Heinle & Heinle.

Pavlenko, D. A. (Ed.). (2011). Thinking and speaking in two languages. Retrieved from Created from uniofmindanao-ebooks on 2018-04-10 21:20:35.
Schrauf, R. W. (2009). The bilingual lexicon and bilingual autobiographical memory: The neurocognitive basic systems view. In A. E. Pavlenko, The Bilingual Mental Lexicon: Interdisciplinary Approaches (pp. 26-51).
Wood, N. (2006). Introduction. Describing Discourse: A Practical Guide to Discourse analysis. Oxford University Press, Inc.
Yanagihara, Y. (July 2007). A study of bilingual education in the Philippines . Difference in pupils’ degree of understanding between learning mathematics in Cebuano and English. The Keiai Journal of International Studies. No. 19. July 2007 pp. 175-201