Thai – English Code-Switching in a Thai Government Organization
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This is a qualitative study of Code-Switching (CS) from Thai to English, in the context of a Thai organization. Focusing on a case study of a government agency, this study examines the attitudes of the employees towards CS, reasons why they code-switch, and how CS is applied. Seven employees from different departments were interviewed. The data were transcribed and analyzed using theories and previous research relating to CS: reasons why people code-switch (Malik, 1994), the markedness model (Carol Myers-Scotton, 1993), World Englishes (Kachru, 1988), and semiotic identity processes (Bucholtz and Hall, 2004). The results revealed that the employees do not have negative attitudes towards the use of CS nor towards the code-switchers. The employees mentioned that they were motivated to use CS because they see more benefits than disadvantages of applying CS in conversation. The common reasons provided by the interviewees were to express their membership in a group, to articulate an idea when having difficulty finding an appropriate word in Thai, to address different audiences, and for pragmatic reasons, i.e., replacing long Thai translated words with English words, transliterating English words to fit the Thai pronunciation and spelling system, and English technical terms in a Thai sentence, as well as using an appropriate amount of CS according to occasion and formality. The last reason is related to the context in which the employees code-switch, with respect to where CS is appropriate to occur and how much CS can occur in a sentence. In addition, the data revealed that the employees normally use CS at the word level and adapt standard English forms to localized Thai variants. Even though there are a number of previous studies on CS in the Thai context, no prior studies on Thai employees working for a government agency appear to have been investigated. Mostly, previous studies have been in education settings such as ESL or bilingual classrooms, in private companies in the hospitality industry or organizations that have direct contact with international clients and generally use English for work such as airlines and hotels, and in online platforms such as web chats and Facebook. In these settings, English is common and expected. This research focuses on an organization in which English is not promoted and Thai is expected to be strictly used in all communication. Hence, this research lays the groundwork for future studies of CS in Thai government sectors and fills in an apparent gap focusing on a context or an official institution where Thai is the dominant language and English is an additional language.