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Code-Switching and Code-Mixing During Speaking among Tertiary Level Learners in Bangladesh

  • Chowdhury Alisha Kamal
  • Sukanto Roy, PhD
  • 457-466
  • Apr 30, 2024
  • Language

Code-Switching and Code-Mixing During Speaking among Tertiary Level Learners in Bangladesh

Chowdhury Alisha Kamal1 and Sukanto Roy, PhD2

1MA TESOL, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

2Assistant Professor, Department of English and Modern Languages, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Received: 13 February 2024; Revised: 19 March 2024; Accepted: 26 March 2024; Published: 30 April 2024


The paper aims to investigate the challenges teachers and learners have in developing learners’ English-speaking skills at the tertiary level in Bangladesh. The analysis of the study has been supervised by pursuing a mixed-method approach. The survey was conducted on thirty tertiary-level learners to obtain quantitative data and four in-person interviews were carried out with the four tertiary-level educators to accumulate qualitative data. The findings of the study revealed that learners with a lack of confidence, practice, anxiety, fear of criticism, motivation, supportive environment, insufficiency of language lab, and negative judgment are some of the significant challenges learners and teachers are forced to contend with in developing their speaking competency. Additionally, the exercise of only reading and writing skills-oriented exams at the secondary and higher secondary levels provides less attention to speaking skills and is also an indispensable challenge in developing learners’ speaking skills. To evolve learners’ speaking skills, instructors should impart appropriate suggestions and a supportive environment for learners to exercise speaking skills to the fullest extent.               

Keywords: code-switching, code-mixing, interaction, bilingual classroom, speaking competency.


Bilingual individuals exhibit the fascinating phenomenon known as “code-switching” by joining two or more lexical items or phrases from two languages while speaking or writing. A dialect or accent is what is meant by the term “code.” The practice of exchanging words and expressions across two different dialects or languages is known as code-switching (CS). This typically happens between speakers of those specific languages. Language switching, often known as code-switching, is a common occurrence in second-language schools. In the course of different times during a discussion or in writing, distinct bilingual speakers effortlessly switch between respective languages. In the context of ordinary discourse, people frequently change their code. Many intelligent people who speak English fluently as a second language (L2) sometimes use code-switching in regular interactions by incorporating English words, statements, or ideas. There is always a purpose for code swapping, even if it sometimes happens unintentionally.

Numerous cultural and linguistic variables influenced code flipping. In multilingual and multicultural societies, it is extensively employed. In Asian nations including Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and China, bilingual speakers typically have their mother tongue and dialect as their primary language (L1) and English as their foreign language (L2). Similarly, to this, in bilingual societies throughout Europe, classes may alternately be taught in French, German, Spanish, or Italian. Code shifting is used in conversations between instructors and students in educational contexts, (Sert, 2006). Scholars, linguists, and ESL instructors disagree that code-switching is always a hindrance or shortcoming in language acquisition.

Even, in fact, some people find it challenging to differentiate between code switching and code-mixing. Code-mixing entails the interchange of components from all levels of language and subunits, extending from a vocabulary word to a phrase, making it difficult to tell code-switching from code-mixing in some situations (Grosjean, 1982). The interchange of two languages inside a single discourse, statement, or element is referred to as code-switching. When an alteration occurs across the limits of a sentence, it is known as an inter-sentential alternation (Grosjean, 1982; Torres, 1989). According to Grosjean, it is described as “the employment of far more than one language by communicators in the accomplishment of a speech act”(Grosjean, 1982, p. 145). According to Poplack (1980), code-switching is the switching between two languages inside a single discourse, statement, or component. Code-switching, as per Clyne (1987), is the alternate usage of two languages inside or between phrases. Additionally, this is in opposition to translocation, in which a single item is moved from language B to language A (or conversely), regardless of whether it is incorporated into the receiving language’s phonetic or grammatical structure.

During a discussion, bilingual students switch between the codes for a variety of purposes. To understand why bilingual individuals who are proficient in two languages change their terms or phrases depending on the context, code-switching and code-mixing are investigated.

This research attempts to discover and assess the variables influencing code-switching and code-mixing between bilingual students in university settings. To draw comparison conclusions regarding these characteristics, actual information has been gathered, examined, and matched with relevant studies. Scholars have not concentrated on the factors impacting bilingual students from around the world learning English in colleges, even though code switching and code mixing have been studied in earlier studies. Reyes (2004) observed that there were no similar studies. In university-level English classes, this paper intends to analyze the variables that influence code-switching and code-mixing among non-native English speakers in the classroom.

As a method of interaction, language plays a crucial role in societal structure. To convey information or thoughts from the person speaking to the audience, language is employed as a communication tool. To form a social structure or a community, conversation, indoctrination, and relationships between people are therefore the most essential functions of language (Chaer & Agustina, 2010). Bilingualism refers to the utilization of two languages in communications.

The term ” Bilingualism” describes the usage of one or more languages by a person or a culture (Bell, 1983, p.135). Code-switching and code-mixing are linguistic processes that happen as a result of explicit contact between a variety of languages in a bilingual context, such as the one that develops during the study of an additional language, like English.


This research was carried out using both a qualitative and a quantitative research strategy; as a result, it is a mixed-method study. A Google survey was used by the researcher to gather data from university students for this study. Additionally, semi-structured interview sessions with university students were held. The research used both qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques to make the study more thorough. A mixed-method approach was used in this study to create a comprehensive response to the research topic.

The main concept of this study is to establish why and how learners switch their codes and to investigate the following schema. Also, to figure out the consequences of code-switching and code-mixing in the regular life of tertiary-level learners, whether it is for study purposes of speaking based, with the following issues to be more specific:

What varieties of code-switching and mixing are present in tertiary-level classroom engagement?

What are the possible scenarios behind code switching and code mixing?

Research Significance

Fundamentally, this investigation is expected to add to the concepts that engage with code switching and code mixing for other sociolinguistics scholars.

This research can, in practice, provide language users with in-depth knowledge of the different kinds of code-switching and code-mixing that students frequently employ in interactions within the classroom.


Code-switching describes the process of shifting from one language and/or accent to a different one in a verbal communication scenario. Thelander similarly claims that code-switching is the employment of two (or more) languages by a person within the same particular interaction (Chaer & Agustina, (2010). The statement indicates that code-switching is a linguistic technique in which participants in a discussion use two or more languages simultaneously. All parties involved in this situation are able to communicate in both languages, or at the very least, comprehend them.

Additionally, according to Bullock & Toribio (2009) the ability to utilize, switch between, or replace two languages in use is referred to as code-switching. In this instance, the individual at least is proficient in the foreign language as well as the original language, allowing for seamless switching from one to the other.

In respect of the grammatical element, code-switching is broken down into three types by linguists. Tag switching, inter-sentential switching, and intra-sentential switching fall under these classifications. The following subsections will provide explanations for each type.

Tag switching, which commonly occurs at the start or the end of an assertion or an inquiry, is the code-switching that occurs within the components of separate elements that compose a declaration or a concern. Tag switching is frequently referred to as symbolic switching, according to Holmes & Wilson (2017) if the switch is merely an exclamation or speech filler that acts as an ethnicity indicator in a different language. Whoa, Oh gosh, D’oh, hey, Hey, adios, Ow, Ooh, and similar are a few instances of interjections that fall under the category of tag flipping. On the contrary hand, the sentence lengthening instances associated with tag switching are similar and use words like, you know, really, generally, essentially, and many others.


Tag-switching is commonly observed in the form of discourse markers, according to Poplack, (1980) in contrast to interjections and word fillers. Discourse markers, like sentence fillers, are merely used to influence the discourse devoid of conveying any particular meaning. You understand I think, through the way, all right, and similar discourse markers are part of tag switching the case example of this is provided below.

The process proceeded without a hitch, right? (Tagalog)

(Did the procedure go off without a hitch?) (English)

Inter-Sentential Switching

Inter-sentential code-switching is the next kind of code-switching.

Inter-sentential code-switching, then, is the switching of two distinct languages within a single sentence. Below is a situational illustration of this.

The novel is that. I must read this novel, I must. (Indonesian in Bahasa)

That novel is it. Someday, I want to read it.

Intra-Sentential Switching

Intra-sentential code-switching is the third category of code-switching. According to Poplack (1980), intra-sentential code-switching is the process of changing a statement’s linguistic units—words, sequences, or clauses—from one language to another. Appel & Musyken (2006) make a similar concept and claim that intra-sentential switching takes place within a phrase or a phrase. The following is an illustration of intra-sentential code-switching.

This evening saya antar my kid.

I drove my kid this evening.


Hudson (1996) states that code-mixing refers to the merging of two distinct forms in a sentence to convey uncertainty regarding the best code to apply. The presenter will combine the code to have the optimal communication effect. It is a primary code, or the core code, used in the code-mixing, and this code performs autonomously. The other codes, on the other hand, which might have taken part in the discussion, will be insignificant bits with no independent function.

According to Thelander and Chaer (1994), code-mixing will take place if a discussion contains intermingled terms and statements and each term and sentence does not fulfil its purpose. For instance, a person of Bahasa Indonesia frequently incorporates phrases from his or her native tongue into a discussion. Therefore, it may be said that the person engaged in code-mixing. When looking at code-mixing from a linguistic perspective, the blending of two different language systems into a single phrase or paragraph is clear. In other words, intra-sentential code-switching is the perceived characteristic of code-mixing. This assertion is consistent with the contention made by Appel & Musyken (2006) who claim that intra-sentential switches—also known as code-switching—occur in the center of a sentence.

Three different types of code-mixing are suggested by Muysken, (2006). Main structural constraints characterize the three distinct types of code-mixing. On particular bilingual backgrounds, the three different types of code-mixing also play a varied function at different degrees and in diverse ways. Following that, insertion, alternation, and congruent lexicalization are the three types of code-mixing. The next section contains more detail about each type in the sections that follow.


Insertion is the initial kind of code-mixing. Insertion is the process of incorporating linguistic components and other language features into the framework of another language.


Alter-nation is the next sort of code-mixing. Alternation is the division of two languages into linguistic constructions that could be lexically used by either language’s constituents. The composition of A language and that of B language are divided by this kind of code-mixing. In one statement, the two separate lexical items are combined. The statement exhibits good meaning and clarity even though it is the product of the blending of two separate language systems.

Congruent Lexicalization

Congruent lexicalization is the third kind of code-mixing. The two languages’ syntactic levels are equivalent on a linear and structural level during the congruent lexicalization stage.

In a variety of linguistics fields, many academics have examined the purposes, traits, motivating variables, and impacts of code-switching. The six purposes of code-switching are allusion, destination identification, recurrence, exclamation, communication qualification personalizing, according to Gumperz’s fundamental study (Gumperz,1982).

The purpose of code-switching, according to research by Sert (2006) on the potential uses of it in multilingual communities’ settings, is to add legitimacy to discourse and make it easier for the reader to understand the concepts being conveyed. Under this study, additional variables that affect student code-switching comprise congruent maintaining, repetition, and resolving conflict.

Baker (2000) lists 12 tasks, compared to Auer (1998)’s eight. Such functions, according to Auer, are “inadequate” and essentially consist of a “diverse set” of numerous aspects, including language structures, dialog structure, and functionality. Additionally, they disregard the local customs that encourage code shifts (Chan, 2003).

Ayeomoni (2006) cites certain linguists who claim that intra-group identity, lyrical originality, and the display of civilization are the causes of code-switching. Youngsters switch codes if they do not understand the term in the target or learned language, according to Reyes (2004). Other study findings have shown that one of the key causes of code shifting is that components of a different language more effectively express the content of the desired notion (Gumperz, 1982).

Participants in the Study

For collecting the quantitative data, the participants of this study were 20 students from Dhaka, Bangladesh. All students who participated in this study were bilingual, they mostly used Bangla and English. The respondents’ age group for the study was 19 to 22 years, then they were from 22 to 25 years and other respondents were from 25 to 28 years and the rest of the respondents were from the age group of 28 to 31 years.

Language Proficiency of Participants

English served as the participants’ second or target language (L2), while Bangla served as their first language (L1). The study’s participants attended English classes when they practiced and learned a second language in a group environment. Both L1 and L2 were used by the participants in and out of the classroom. Learners occasionally switching between languages while using English as their primary language of teaching was shown to be important. The majority of participants had higher exam results and more than half were from graduate programs.

Data Collection: Design and Procedure

Questionnaires were used to gather quantitative data (see Appendix A). Both in and outside of the classroom, participants completed the survey. Ten multiple-choice questions ranging from broad to particular information were included in each survey. The survey was developed as a result of the researcher’s perspective as a graduate student from, his or her classroom teaching experience, and past research on code shifting.  The use of questionnaires was regarded as an efficient instrument for data gathering and analysis in addition to one-on-one interviews with participants. The primary goal of employing a survey is to accurately capture the entire situation of the experienced circumstance. Semi-structured interview sessions were conducted with tertiary-level learners. According to the need of the study, the researchers asked some address questions. With the permission of the participants, the interview sessions were recorded for further data analysis. All the interview sessions were 05-10 minutes long.


The research used a holistic approach to obtain a favourable result. To comprehend the learners’ viewpoint, the interview tapes were watched and examined. The interview sessions’ most significant sections were transcribed. The qualitative technique is used for this portion of the data analysis. The statistical analysis and evaluation of data form the foundation of the quantitative research approach. As a research instrument, this research also used quantitative approaches to examine the survey questions. For data display, several tables, bar charts, and pie charts were used.


The study presented and examined the actual data that was gathered through semi-structured interview sessions with participants at the tertiary level, as well as questionnaire forms utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The survey findings were detailed and elucidated. Most of the participants were from the University and some renowned faculty from the university. There was an overview of the data gathered from the interviews.

The use of questionnaires was regarded as an efficient instrument for data gathering and analysis in addition to one-on-one interviews with participants. The primary goal of employing a survey is to accurately capture the entire situation of the experienced circumstance. Semi-structured interview sessions were conducted with tertiary-level learners. According to the need of the study, the researchers asked some address questions. With the permission of the participants, the interview sessions were recorded for further data analysis. All the interview sessions were 05-10 minutes long.


This study shows several numbers of factors, including the regularity of code-switching mixing. These undergraduate students change and mix codes less commonly than graduate students, according to the results. After examining questionnaire replies, it was discovered that the graduate students switched codes. For instance, on average, one participant in the class changed the code between 10 and 15 times. One of the causes of this might be the fact that their primary and middle schools used their native tongue as the teaching medium.

 The lecturers of the universities prefer to switch codes to make information more clear and effective for tertiary learners…’ Code-switching and mixing can be used to emphasize a particular point, substitute a word for an unknown word in the target language, reinforce a request, clarify a point, for social identity and friendship, to ease tension and inject humour into a conversation,’ according to Baker (2007). Around 47% of respondents were asked “Which language do you commonly speak in university?”. Respondents indicated they frequently speak both languages. 46% of respondents said they frequently use only their native tongue. The remaining group at the university speaks just English and is roughly 10 times fewer than the other 2 categories. This demonstrates that most students in English classes speak English less commonly than they do their mother tongue. Among the respondents, 46% said they were lectured in their mother tongue, while only 27% said they received instruction in only English. This suggests that many children in elementary and middle school sections throughout many nations receive instruction in their native language 27% of respondents said they learned English (L2). 46% mentioned their mother tongue (L1). 27% claimed to speak both languages frequently.

It was anticipated that foreign students would speak more English than their native tongue because they do not have nearly as many friends from their own country with whom to converse. Moreover, it was shown that 40% of students communicated with one another in English, 33% in their native tongue, and 27% in both languages. This demonstrates that despite having fewer acquaintances who speak their first language, learners still use it.

Frequencies of Code-switching in Class

This study shows several numbers of factors, including the regularity of code-switching mixing. These undergraduate students change and mix codes less commonly than graduate students, according to the results. After examining questionnaire replies, it was discovered that the graduate students switched codes. For instance, on average, one participant in the class changed the code between 10 and 15 times. One of the causes of this might be the fact that their primary and middle schools used their native tongue as the teaching medium.

The findings of the study demonstrate that 57% change the code once to five times, 7% once to ten times, and 7% once to fifteen times. While 29% only switch the codes once or twice, some people never switch the codes at all.

In this investigation, there was the following frequency of code-switching:

1–5 occasions 57%

5-10 occasions 29%

10-15 occasions 7%

15-20 occasions 7%

English was the language used to interact with friends (L2) 40% (L1) native 33%, The two language was used 27%

Factors that Influence Code Switching in this Study

Respondents in the linguistic and cultural analysis displayed a range of factors of code-switching variables. The ideas listed in the questionnaire were largely accepted by them. Some respondents, meanwhile, react to code-switching elements from different angles. In this research, both perspective-switching considerations are taken into account. The survey suggests the following factors that may code-switching:

  1. a) the absence of English words with a similar meaning;
  2. b) the lack of knowledge of an English word;
  3. c) the need to feel able to speak pauses;
  4. d) the ease of speaking one’s native tongue; and
  5. e) the desire to avoid misinterpreting.

The environment in which the coding occurred, whether it was deliberate or unplanned, and the comfort level of the participants were among the things that were observed. Based on how the students interacted throughout the class, the frequency response was noted.

Participants were asked during the interview, “the reason for their code switch in class?” Most of the respondents said they were unfamiliar with the English word. Many of them replied that code changing made the class more fascinating because it was otherwise monotonous. The learners from a range of nations laughed at one another since their accents made it difficult to understand what they were saying. One student remarked, “I speak English, but due to my accent, my buddy does not comprehend me. Some people’s accented speech is likewise difficult for me to understand. Before responding to my professor, I checked with my Saudi friend. My lecturer acknowledged Arabic by saying “very nice” if we speak in that language first.

In-depth conversations with bilingual students revealed that maintaining anonymity was one reason for code shifting. Respondents decided to change the code in the class to ensure that others would not comprehend what they were communicating to their friends back home. This research reveals that 6% of respondents switched codes to ensure confidentiality.

Straightforward expression was found to be the most important criterion via data analysis. According to 23% of the respondents, speaking in their native tongue is simpler than speaking in English. It is really fascinating to observe that 14% of respondents claimed they code-swapped to prevent misunderstandings when they were unfamiliar with the English equivalent. Learners’ proficiency in speaking English, the new word they are acquiring, definitely lags behind their proficiency in their mother tongue. Discovering L1 and L2 equivalents is a constant challenge for people when second language proficiency is lower.

In this instance, the learner changes to his or her original language by using the native counterpart of a specific lexical term. Learners learning a second language are the ones who tend to observe this issue the most. This phenomenon could be linked to a lack of language abilities in the more recent original language. In this sense, the equivalency-seeking factor allows the learner to communicate by filling in the gaps brought on by a lack of proficiency in a different tongue.

The learners used their native tongue to complete the gaps during interactions outside of class. To prevent communication barriers caused by linguistic code-switching, switching is sometimes necessary. 9% of the respondents expressed that they switched codes to “fill a gap.”

Code changing among learners is also influenced by the ability “to add importance,” which is significant in linguistic research. 9% of the study participants overall gave this element a positive response. The student attempts to convey the idea by using a repetition strategy in this situation by having the student repeat the sentence in the chosen language in his or her native tongue. This particular instance of language switching may have occurred for two reasons: first, it is possible that the student did not accurately translate the meaning into the target language. Furthermore, the learner might believe that switching the code makes communication easier to understand. To enhance their speech to sound fashionable or to “add importance” in their mother tongue so that other people might observe them and be amazed, 12% of the respondents said code- switching.

The study concluded that the variables that affected code-switching were

No words matching 14%

9% did n0t understand the word

9% to close a gap

Communicate more easily 23%

15% To prevent misinterpretation

9% to emphasize

adding accent 14%

For confidentiality 6%

Other 3%

Respondents were allowed to provide different responses to the survey’s last question. One respondent said, “I typically scream in Bangla and my attitude is the key determinant in my code-switching.” This element serves as an illustration of how code-switching is used to manage conflicts. Many learners purposefully change the coding to prevent misunderstandings. The underlying reasons for employing this kind of code swapping may change depending on the requirements, surroundings, settings, ambitions, or goals of the learners.

In code-switching situations, other causes have also been considered, such as discomfort with foreign cross-cultural circumstances, assimilating new dishes, and observing strange cultural behaviors. However, all of these elements appear to have an impact on second language learning for bilingual learners in a classroom setting in one way or another.

According to Skiba (1997), code-switching is employed in language classes to help students who have difficulty expressing themselves. It maintains coherence in conversation rather than obstructing natural linguistic rhythm. Code shifting can be viewed in this context as a sustaining component of data transfer and interpersonal interactions. As a result, it encourages interaction and serves as a medium for information transfer.


The results of this study showed that language proficiency issues in the second language are the main cause of code shifting and mixing in the classroom. Other considerations included the need to keep information private to ensure that others would not fully comprehend, the simplicity of information exchange, the need to avoid misunderstandings, the need to exchange intelligence, the lack of familiarity with English words that are comparable, and the desire to emphasize style or to be perceived as intelligent.

Code shifting and mixing is a common occurrence among bilingual learners, according to my classroom teaching and respondent interviews. The respondents concur that they change the codes for a variety of reasons. Both undergraduate and graduate students do not swap codes on an equal basis. While code changing is more common in undergraduate classes, it is more particular and constrained in graduate classes. This is due to the fact that graduates are more adept at using English in a variety of contexts and are more conversant with the subject.

However, in this research, undergraduate students outperformed graduates in terms of test scores. Code changing and mixing have been found to be a valuable strategy in adult language acquisition classes frequently; yet, in undergraduate classrooms, it can be more unwelcome and upsetting.

Language teachers should consider this in their pedagogical approach since codes that are utilized appropriately in discourse can be highly helpful for giving lectures and originate through bilingual contact. In many cases, a teacher would enable learners to trade codes because they believe it will help them learn the target language. Its structure and appearance are determined by the student mind’s characteristics, age and educational background, and dynamic teaching method. Since words may not have the same meanings, statuses, or purposes in different cultures, there may occasionally be an unsettling interaction between language users and communicators as a result of code-mixing and code-switching. When employed in personal and informal interaction, regional languages may be devalued in various cultural contexts. Many times, students attempt to provide the best response in English class to demonstrate their understanding. In order to correctly respond to the teacher, they code-switch and mix with their classmates as they go along. This problem was seen in a college course when students were eager to provide professors with a precise meaning or responses. Before standing up and responding in front of the class, they conferred with their mates in their mother tongue about it.

Code-switching and mixing also have the benefit of providing an explanation when a term or phrase is unfamiliar in English immersion settings. If the regularity is not too high, the code interchange incidents are appreciated in the classroom and could improve students’ English proficiency. Additionally, the lessons can be handled better if the English teachers have some familiarity with the learners’ first language. Code changing, and mixing in other words, can be a helpful method in classroom discourse if the purpose is to make interpretation apparent and effectively convey information to learners.


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