Code-Switching in Society

In today’s society people and their social groups are widely identified by language. There are many parts to a type of language, and some are easier to identify than others. There are different pronunciations throughout the world, and even just throughout certain countries. There is a also a difference in the actual language spoken throughout certain social groups across the world, these specific words or phrases can only typically be identified by the group or multiple groups that created the term along with many of the local groups that interact with them. These terms are called slang and are an integral part of the different dialects throughout the world. Today there is a term called code-switching. Code-switching is when a person changes how they speak based on who they are around. Code-switching is becoming more and more common and has an influence on communities everywhere. People use it to feel more comfortable throughout different societies in their lives, and they use it to stay connected to all of these parties at once.

Today code-switching has become very popular. It is an integral part of society, because it pertains to so many different people in society. To understand code-switching, it is important to understand language and the role that it plays in society today. Language is something that connects people to their groups of friends, and their communities. There are many parts of language, and these parts can be used to identify a person, who they are, and where they are from. The pronunciation of speech is an important part, and also is possibly the most distinguishing part of language. Different pronunciations can be found because of your location (Philadelphia; Boston; Texas; etc.), or your background (Black; White; Jewish; etc.). Another factor in understanding speech, is dialect. This can also differ based on location or background. A component of dialect is slang. Slang is when different communities and social groups create or change the meaning of certain words. These words can seem well known to the group of origin, but to someone across the country or even across the state, can make no sense at all. In the documentary “American Tongues”, language is analyzed to better determine what types of language are spoken where, and what kind of Slang exists in these places. Throughout the documentary it becomes evident that some people truly have no idea of the definitions of certain words created by certain groups. Code-switching is when someone changes their language based on who they are with, typically to fit in better with that group.

There are many reasons why people code-switch. People switch their pronunciations of words and their dialects around to better fit in with a certain group. An example of this would be if someone is at work and needs to talk professionally around their co-workers, but later after work when they meet up with their friends, they change their speech. In this situation the person may change their grammar so that it less professional. Another reason a person might code-switch is not for themselves or their personal security at all. There are times when people code-switch to make the people that they are with feel more comfortable about being around them. For example a person would typically change their language when around children so as not to scare them, and also so as not to teach them bad or vulgar language.

Since code-switching is becoming more and more of a popular thing to do in today’s society, it is being incorporated into many parts of our society. This is because code-switching is becoming more and more practical. While many people in society today agree that it is a beneficial idea, many disagree. Jacomine Nortier of Multilingual Living writes, “People who switch back and forth from one language to the other are considered careless, thoughtless, clumsy, not interested or disrespectful towards their languages”. (http://www.multilingualliving. com/2011/05/19/codeswitching-much-more-than-careless-mixing-multilingual-bilingual-know-rules/). While this may be true in certain circumstances, it is important to understand that people do not necessarily switch languages because they are being careless. They may have a very good reason to switch their language around. This is because people respond better to what is familiar. One man who understands this is current president of the United States, Barack Obama. Back in January of 2009, president elect Barack Obama went to get lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben’s Chili Bowl, is a famous restaurant in a historically black neighborhood. After paying for his food, the cashier asked the President if he would like his change, to which he replied “Nah, we straight”. Even a man famous for his politically correct speech and grammar, the same man who was trusted enough to be given power over our entire country, understands the importance of code-switching and making people feel comfortable around you.

I code-switch, on a daily basis. I can even remember when it began. After my first summer at overnight camp, when my language began its transformation from a younger language to a more teenage language, I had started using more words that I had not used in the past. Some of these words were more vulgar than accepted today in public on a regular basis. So, my first experience with code-switching was hiding my newfound language from my parents and teachers. Now I have many different ways of speaking. I speak different ways with my parents; teachers; boss; school friends; school acquaintances; outside of school friends; boy friends; girl friends; strangers; and many more. My language, as with most kids my age, changes at least a little bit with almost everyone I talk to. The comfort level with that person changes. It does not matter whether I am the one that is uncomfortable or they are, but language is something that is meant to be manipulated for the best communication possible.

Furthermore, I believe that code-switching is a fundamental and even vital component of the human language. There are both social and professional benefits to changing the way in which you speak based on who you are speaking with. This is why code-switching is becoming more common throughout the world. It is important for people to feel comfortable throughout all of the different groups in their lives, and code-switching is they a way to stay connected to all of these groups at once.

Works Cited

Alvarez, Louis, and Andrew Kolker. "POV - PBS American Tongues." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.

Dem, Gene. "How Code-Switching Explains The World." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.

Nortier, Jacomine. "Code-switching Is Much More than Careless Mixing: Multilinguals Know the Rules!" Multilingual Living RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.

Thompson, Matt. "Five Reasons Why People Code-Switch." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.