Multilingualism and Language Mixing Among Singapore University Students

  • Kingsley BoltonEmail author
  • Werner Botha
Part of the Multilingual Education Yearbook book series (MEYB)


This chapter discusses the dynamics of language mixing among Singaporean university students and how such mixing practices are an integral part of students’ linguistic behaviour at university, both inside and outside formal classroom contexts. The study draws on a large-scale language survey of undergraduate students, as well as qualitative language data collected at one of Singapore’s leading universities. The findings reveal how Singaporean students are able to shift between various languages inside and outside their classrooms, and may also have relevance for a range of other multilingual contexts, particularly in relation to language use in higher education.


English-medium education EMI Code-mixing Code-switching Language mixing Multilingualism Translanguaging Globalization Singapore 


  1. Auer, P. (1990). A discussion paper on code alternation. In European Science Foundation (Ed.), Network on code-switching and language contact (pp. 69–89). Papers for the Workshop on Concepts, Methodology and Data, Basel, January 12–13, 1990.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, C. (2001). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  3. Bolton, K. (2008). English in Asia, Asian Englishes, and the issue of proficiency. English Today, 24(2), 3–12.Google Scholar
  4. Bolton, K., Bacon-Shone, J., Botha, W., Heah, C., Kathpalia, S. S., Li, S. Y., et al. (2016). The communication needs of students at Nanyang Technological University. Survey report. Singapore: Language and Communication Centre, NTU.Google Scholar
  5. Bolton, K., & Botha, W. (2017). English as a medium of instruction in Singapore higher education. In B. Fenton-Smith, P. Humphreys, & I. Walkinshaw (Eds.), English medium instruction in higher education in Asia-Pacific: From policy to pedagogy (pp. 133–152). Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolton, K., Botha, W., & Bacon-Shone, J. (2017). English-medium instruction in Singapore higher education: Policy, realities and challenges. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38(10), 913–930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolton, K., & Ng, B. C. (2014). The dynamics of multilingualism in contemporary Singapore. World Englishes, 33(3), 307–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Botha, W. (2019). The functions of language mixing in the social networks of Singapore university students. International Journal of the Sociology of Language. In press.Google Scholar
  9. Canagarajah, S. (2013). Translingual practice: Global Englishes and cosmopolitan relations. New York and Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carroll, K. S. (2017). Concluding remarks: Prestige planning and translanguaging in higher education. In C. M. Mazak & K. S. Carroll (Eds.), Translanguaging in higher education: Beyond monolingual ideologies (pp. 177–185). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  11. Chong, E. L. J., & Seilhamer, M. F. (2014). Young people, Malay and English in multilingual Singapore. World Englishes, 33(3), 363–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Garcia, O., & Li, W. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gu, M. (2014). From opposition to transcendence: The language practices and ideologies of students in a multilingual university. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 17(3), 310–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hafner, C. A., Li, D. C. S., & Miller, L. (2015). Language choice among peers in project-based learning: A Hong Kong case study of English language learners’ plurilingual practices in out-of-class computer-mediated communication. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 71(4), 441–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heugh, K., Li, X., & Song, Y. (2017). Multilingualism and translanguaging in the teaching of and through English: Rethinking linguistic boundaries in an Australian University. In B. Fenton-Smith, P. Humphreys, & I. Walkinshaw (Eds.), English medium instruction in higher education in Asia-Pacific: From policy to pedagogy (pp. 259–279). Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jaspers, J. (2018). The transformative limits of translanguaging. Language & Communication, 58, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leimgruber, J. R. E. (2013). Singapore English: Structure, variation, and usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leimgruber, J. R. E., Siemund, P., & Terassa, L. (2018). Singaporean students’ language repertoires and attitudes revisited. World Englishes, 37(2), 282–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Li, W. (2011). Moment analysis and translanguage space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 1222–1235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Li, W. (2018). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 9–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Low, E.-L. (2014). Research on English in Singapore. World Englishes, 33(4), 439–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mazak, C. M., & Carroll, K. S. (Eds.). (2017). Translanguaging in higher education: Beyond monolingual ideologies. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  23. Siemund, P., Schulz, M. E., & Schweinberger, S. (2014). Studying the linguistic ecology of Singapore: A comparison of college and university students. World Englishes, 33(3), 340–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Singapore Ministry of Education. (2015). Higher education division. Retrieved from
  25. SingStat. (2016). General household survey 2015. Singapore: Department of Statistics, Ministry of Trade & Industry. Retrieved from
  26. Wee, L. (2014). Linguistic chutzpah and the Speak Good Singlish movement. World Englishes, 33(1), 85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Williams, C. (1996). Secondary education: Teaching in the bilingual situation. In C. Williams, G. Lewis, & C. Baker (Eds.), The language policy: Taking stock (pp. 39–78). Llangefni, UK: CAI.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations