Code Switching

Lesson 4: Topic 5 of 6

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Code switching is an adaptive strategy. Basically, it’s the ability to alternate between different languages or dialects in different cultural contexts. It is a phenomenon that is often observable in multilingual communities, where individuals may speak one language at home and another language in the workplace or in other social settings. Code switching is also a common practice in American culture, where individuals may switch between different varieties of English depending on the context and the audience. A study by Pew Research Center found that among black, hispanic, and white participants  “younger, college-educated black Americans are most likely to feel the need to ‘code-switch.’

This practice might be seen as a form of linguistic and cultural expertise, as it allows individuals to access different social networks and participate in different cultural spheres. However, code switching can also be something of a source of stress and anxiety for individuals, particularly for those who feel like they are not fully proficient in one language or another. This is especially true for immigrants who may feel the desire to fit in with the local people at work or elsewhere, but continue to operate in their own native cultural environment at home.