Applicability and value of code-switching in sign bilingual education


  • Patrick Sibanda Senior Lecture, Department of Disability Studies and Inclusive Education, Zimbabwe Open University, Zimbabwe.


Sign bilingual education, Sign language, Code-switching, Deaf culture, Inter-sentential code-switching


Grounded on Peal and Lambert (1962)’s code-switching theory, the purpose of this review was to explore the applicability and value of code-switching in sign bilingual education. The paper conceives code-switching between oral and sign language as sign bilingual code-switching. Literature is replete with studies that promote the validity of hearing code-switching yet there are conflicting conclusions that are openly hostile to sign bilingual code-switching. This paper is however posited on a belief that sign bilingual code-switching is applicable and valid in scaffolding learning and language development and in facilitating social interaction in inclusive and sign bilingual education settings. The paper concludes that literature that is opposed to the applicability and validity of sign bilingual code-switching was influenced by the hostile historic beliefs in hegemonic power struggles that often characterize languages and cultures as either dominant or minor. Thus, successful sign bilingual code-switching is that which recognises the equality of oral and sign language and of the hearing and Deaf cultures while at the same time embracing inter-sentential code-switching practices. In these regards, for sign bilingual teachers to successfully use sign bilingual code-switching, they must be proficient in both the dominant oral language and the sign language of that community. Professional training and regular staff development is recommended in these regards.


Butzkamm, W., 2003. We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Lang. Learn. J., 28, 29-39.

Coyle, D., Hood, P., Marsh, D., 2010. CLIL: Content and language integrated learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Creese, A., Blackledge, A., 2010. Translanguaging in the bilingual classroom: A pedagogy for learning and teaching. Mod. Lang. J., 94(1), 103-114.

Davidson, K., lillo-Martin, D., Pichler, D.C., 2013. Spoken English language development among native signing children with cochlear implants. J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ., 19(2), 238-250.

Edvinsson, C.M., 2015. Teacher code-switching in secondary ESL classrooms in Sweden: A study of one teacher’s use of code-switching.

Emmorey, K., Boristein, H.B., Thompson, R., 2005. Bimodal bilingualism: Code-blending between spoken English and American Sign Language. In Cohen, J., McAllister, K.T., Rosland, K., MacSwan, J. (eds.), Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Emmorey, K., Petrich, J.A.F., Gollan, T.H., 2013. Bimodal bilingualism and the frequency-lag hypothesis. J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ., 18 (1), 1-11.

Faltis, C., 1996. Learning to teach content bilingually in a middle school bilingual classroom. Biling. Res. J., 20(1), 29-44.

Fennema-Bloom, J.R., 2010. Code-scaffolding: A pedagogic code-switching technique for bilingual content instruction. J. Educ., 190(3), 27-35.

Garate, M., 2012. ASL/English bilingual education: Models, methodologies and strategies. Visual Language and Visual Learning Research Brief, 2(8), 1-8.

Garcia, O., Lin, A.M.Y., 2016. Translanguaging in bilingual education. In Garcia, O., Lin, A.M.Y. (eds.), Bilingual and multilingual education. Encyclopaedia of Language and Education (Vol. 5). Dordrecht: Springer.

Garcia, O., 2011. Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. London: Wiley-Balckwell.

Garcia, O., Cole, D., 2014. Deaf gains in the study of bilingualism and bilingual education. In Bauman, H.L., Murray, J.J. (eds). Deaf gain: Raising the stakes for human diversity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hauser, P., 2000. Code switching: American Sign Language and cued English. In Metzger, M. (ed.), Bilingualism and identity in deaf communities. Rochester: RIT Scholar Works.

Hsing, M., 2015. The impact of sign bilingual inclusive program on deaf and hearing young children in Taiwan. Taiwan: National University of Tainan.

Jacobson, R., 1990. Allocating two languages as a key feature of a Bilingual Methodology. In Jacobson R., Faltis, C. (eds). Language distribution issues in Bilingual Schooling (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters), 3-17.

Jamshidi, A., Naveherbrahim, M., 2013. Learners’ use of code switching in the English as a foreign language classroom. Aust. J. Basic Appl. Sci., 7(1), 186-190.

King, J.R., Chetty, R., 2014. Code-switching: Linguistic and literacy understanding of teaching dilemmas in multilingual classrooms. Ling. Educ., 25, 40-50.

Klaudia, K., 2013. The benefits of sign language for deaf children with and without cochlear implant(s). Eur. Sci. J., 4, 341-349.

Kushalnagar, P., Hannay, H.J., Hernandez, A.E., 2010. Bilingualism and attention: A study of balanced and unbalanced bilingual deaf users of American Sign Language and English. J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ., 15(3), 263-273.

Lewis, G., Jones, B., Baker, C., 2012. Translanguaging: Developing its conceptualisation and contextualisation. Educ. Res. Eval., 18(7).

Macaro, E., Jang Ho, L., 2013. Teacher language background, codeswitching, and English-only instruction: Does age make a difference to learners’ attitudes? TESOL Q., 47(4), 717-742.

Martínez, R.A., 2010. Spanglish as literacy tool: Toward an understanding of the potential role of Spanish-English code-switching in the development of academic literacy. Res. Teach. Eng., 45(2), 124-149.

Martin-Jones, M., 2007. Bilingualism, education and the regulation of access to language resources. In: Heller, M. (eds) Bilingualism: A social approach. Palgrave Advances in Linguistics. London Palgrave.

Nussbaum, D.B., Scott, S., Simms, L.E., 2012. The “why” and “how” of an ASL/English bimodal bilingual program. New Dir. Deaf Educ., 13, 14-19.

Peal, E., Lambert, W., 1962. The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs. 76, 1-23.

Riegelhaupt, F., 2000. Code switching and language-use in the classroom. In Roca, A. (Ed). Research on Spanish in the U.S., 204-217. Somerville, M.A: Cascadilla Press.

Roy, C., Metzger, M., 2014. Researching signed language interpreting: Research through a sociolinguistic lens. Translation Interpreting, 6(1), 158-176.

Swanwick, R., 2016. Deaf children’s bimodal bilingualism and education. Lang. Teach., 49(1), 1-34.

Tang, G., 2016. Sign bilingualism in deaf education. In Garcia et al. (Eds) Bilingual and Multilingual Education. Encyclopedia of language and education. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-02324-3_35-2

Van den Bogaerde, B., Baker, A.E., 2006. Code mixing in mother-child interaction in deaf families. Sign Linguistics.

Wei, L., Garcia, O., 2016. From researching translanguaging to translanguaging research. In King, K. et al. (eds.) Research methods in language and education. Enyclopedia of Language and Education.

World Federation for the Deaf (WFD), 2011. Bilingualism as a basic human right for deaf children in education. Rome: WFD.

Yow, W.Q., Patrycia, F., 2013. Challenging the linguistic incompetency hypothesis: Language competency predicts code-switching. Singapore: International Design Center (IDC).



How to Cite

Sibanda, P. . (2022). Applicability and value of code-switching in sign bilingual education. Scientific Journal of Review, 10(1), 664-669. Retrieved from