Understanding multilingual web users' code-switching behaviors in online searching

Jieyu Wang, Anita Komlodi, Omar Ka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


The availability of information in different languages on the Internet allows multilingual web users to search in multiple languages for the same search task. When searchers can search in multiple languages, they may combine these languages in various ways during searching. Few studies have examined multilingual web users' language switching behaviors in two or more languages online, specifically their code-switching search patterns. This research investigates native Chinese web users' code-switching (Chinese-English) search patterns in their information seeking process through controlled lab experiments and interviews. Results reveal three general code-switching search models for multilingual web users for their search tasks. Findings highlight factors and reasons for multilingual web users' situational and metaphorical code-switching during their information search on the Web. We find that multilingual web users switch code situationally due to pragmatic reasons such as information sufficiency, language proficiency, information verification, context, and translation. Metaphorical code-switching behaviors were motivated by the searchers' language image, cultural perspective, website credibility, sense of belonging, and psychological acceptance. We also investigate these users' code-switching search strategies. The study aims to provide design implications for website design concerning multilingual web users' code-switching search strategies, habits, and needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-543
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Information seeking behaviors
  • code-switching
  • design implications
  • multilingual users
  • search strategies
  • user search models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Library and Information Sciences

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