Pupils Doing Language Policy: Micro-interactional insights from the English as a foreign language classroom

Alia Amir, Nigel Musk

Conversation Analysis, Practiced language policy, Code-switching, Language policing, English as a Foreign Language (EFL)


In this paper, we examine instances of the methods pupils deploy to do language policy in an English as a foreign language classroom in Sweden, where there is a locally practised English-only rule. Although we exemplify some more tacit methods of constructing a monolingual classroom (Slotte-Lüttge 2007), we focus primarily on instances where pupils police other pupils and on occasion even the teacher, when they are perceived not to be upholding the rule. This blatantly explicit method of pupils doing language policy, which we term language policing, generally serves to (re-) establish and maintain English as the medium of interaction and instruction. The data for this study consists of video-recordings of 18 EFL lessons in an International Swedish school and was collected in grade 8 and 9 classes (15-16 year olds) between the years 2007-2010.

In order to reveal the interactional orientations of the participants in situ (Seedhouse, 1998:101), conversation analysis has been used to identify and analyse naturally occurring cases of pupils doing language policy. By discussing the analyses with reference to different policing trajectories, how participants employ a range of initiator techniques, and the nature and distribution of their policing methods, for example, we elucidate the empirical basis for our subcategories of pupil-initiated policing. We also relate language policing practices to the maintenance of a monolingual classroom and conclude that establishing and maintaining the English-only rule “sufficient[ly] for all practical purposes” is a routine matter (cf. Zimmerman 1971: 227), since little language policing is needed to maintain it. In cases where the language rule is breached, both pupils and teacher play an active role in (re-)establishing the monolingual classroom.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies