Summer 2018



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Julia Reimer

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Anne DeMuth

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Dae Selcer


Many researchers agree that code-switching, or the complex behavior of switching between two languages or dialects, is an effective learning tool for ELs. This case study examines code-switching among Somali students in the context of three high school English-medium classrooms. Although there exists much research on the topic of how

and why students code-switch, little evidence has been collected to determine how code- switching behaviors vary between students at different levels of English development.

Therefore, the following research questions are investigated: How do multilingual Somali high school students code-switch in English-medium classes? How do the CS behaviors of these students change, depending on their placement on the WIDA English Language Development continuum? Data collection in this study involved observation and recording of small group work during class, translation and transcription, as well as coding the CS for function. The results of this study indicated that Somali ELs use CS primarily to support their own academic development. Additionally, there were noticeable differences between the CS behavior of ELs at varying English language proficiency levels. Beginning ELs tended to use CS for academic purposes, or because it was the most neutral method of communication. Beginning-intermediate ELs used CS for academic purposes and to express anger. Intermediate-Advanced ELs use CS most often to express their identity.

Research Methodology

Case Study, Observation


ESL/ ELLs, Code-switching, Somali, Somali High School English Learners

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