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Code-Switching the Language of Two

Although the term, "code-switching" may sound like some high-stakes game of computer espionage, it is really nothing more than a fancy way of saying someone is alternating or "switching" between two (or more) languages. This is commonly done by people who know more than one language or are not sure of the right word to use and will resort back to their native tongue to get their point across. Although, this can be more confusing to the listener, it is a common form of communication.

There are many reasons why a person may code-switch. One of the most common is the person inadvertently does it. This can include the use of other languages or slipping into an accent - spend any length of time around a Southerner or British accent and you will see for yourself. It is sometimes done in a moment of stress, anxiety, fear or surprise. Another reason to code-switch is the person wants to fit in and feel accepted. Bending to social pressure can happen to both children and adults, so code-switching is an easy way to feel less conspicuous; however, this can also backfire if the speaker isn't really fully comprehending the language or customs to which they are trying to imitate.

Studies have shown (at least in the service industry) that servers with Southern accents seem to get more sympathy and higher tips. For this reason, one may code-switch to appeal to "y'all" and find themselves rolling in some extra dough at the end of the day. Lovers may also engage in a form of code-switching that keeps the thoughts between the two more private and intimate. Although, this may lead to confusion if your significant other hasn't quite caught on to the whole secret-love-language.

Often times code-switching is used when you are more fluent in another language and are trying to convey a thought in English. People whose native language is not English may have trouble with some technical words or definitions, so they switch over to the language they are more fluent and comfortable in. This works well, if the person you are conveying with, also knows both languages.

Code-switching has been around for decades and will be for more generations to come. Whether it be used to relate a thought, fit in or even stand out, code-switching is most likely done by all races, cultural background and ethnicity, we just don't realize we are doing it.