Examining the Role of First Language in Learning a Second Language: An Overview of Code Switching in the English Language Classroom




code-switching, English language, Ghana, multilingual, second language


The use of language is important when it comes to educational issues because it plays an effective role in the line of communication in the classroom. This essay, however, examined the role of first language in learning second languages especially in a multilingual environment like Ghana which has more than one hundred languages. It further stipulates the concept of code-switching, differences between code-switching and code-mixing, type of code-switching, the use of code-switching in the English and finally, reasons and significance of code-switching. Despite the numerous benefits of using L1 in the English language classroom, various scholars believe that English should only be used in the English language classroom. Some of the reasons include the fact that the classroom is the only source of exposure to English for learners and that the L2 should be used as much as possible by making it the medium as well as the objective of instruction in the process of teaching and learning. In conclusion, there may be a huge gap if the mother tongue is not used to instruct, explain, and socialize among others in the English language classroom. From the discussion, it can be concluded that the use of the English-only in the ESL classroom will not help in learning the English language.


Download data is not yet available.

Agyekum, K. (2001). Language use in Ghana schools. Kumasi: CITA Press.

Andoh-Kumi, K. (1992). An investigation into the relationship between Bilingualism and school achievement: The case of Akan-English bilingual of Ghana. An unpublished Ph.D Thesis. Institute of Africa Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.

Anyidoho, A. & Anyidoho, N. A. (2009). Ideological and political considerations in the choice of school language. In Supplement of Research Review, edited by M.E. Dakubu & A. A. Ampofo, 9, 9-34. Institute of African Studies.

Asamoah, J. K. (2002). Language teaching in Ghana. Kumasi: CITA Press.

Atkinson, D. (1993). Teaching monolingual classes. London: Longman.

Auerbach, E. R. (1993). Reexamining English only in the Esl classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 7(1): 9-32. Retrieved from on 27/06/2019 https://doi.org/10.2307/3586949.

Cheung, H. (1996). Nonword span as a unique predictor of second-language vocabulary learning. Developmental Psychology, 32(5), 867–873.

Cook, V. (2001). Second language learning and teaching. London: Hodder Arnold.

Denteh, A. C. (1990). The role of language. Kumasi: CITA Press.

Fasold, R. (1984). The sociolinguistics of society. Oxford: Blackwell.

Ferguson, G. (2003). Classroom code-switching in post-colonial contexts: functions, attitudes and policies. In: AILA Review, 16, 38-5.

Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. Harlow: Longman.

Hymes, D. H. (1972). On Communicative Competence. In J.B. Pride, & J. Holmes (Eds.), Sociolinguistics. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.

Krashen, S. (2004). Evidence for the power of reading. Free Voluntary Reading: New Research, Applications, and Controversies. Paper presented at the RELC Conference, Singapore.

Krashen, S. D. (1982). Second language acquisition and second language learning. New York: Oxford Press.

Lado, R. (1961). Language testing network. McGraw-Hill Book Co.

MacDonald, C. (1993). Using the target language. Cheltenam: Mary Glasgow Publications

Tucker, G. R. (2005). Innovative language education programmes for heritage language students: The special case of Puerto Ricans. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8 (2 & 3), 188-205.

Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhoffer (eds) (1995). Principle and practice in applied linguistics studies in honour of Henry Widdowson. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Owu-Ewie, C. (2006). The language policy of education in Ghana: a critical look at the English-only language policy of education. In Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, edited by J. Mugane, 76-85. MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.



How to Cite

Bismark Tefeh, J. . (2019). Examining the Role of First Language in Learning a Second Language: An Overview of Code Switching in the English Language Classroom. Nairobi Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 3(4), 145-156. https://doi.org/10.58256/njhs.v3i4.12