5 Reasons People Code-Switch

If you speak more than one language, you know the code-switch is real. And you use it more than you thought you would. Code-switching is the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversations—meaning you can start a sentence in one language and finish it in another. Here are five reasons why people do it.

1. You simply can’t help it.

You find yourself talking in English and your Hispanic friend starts talking to you in Spanish, making your brain switch completely. Or you’re talking and all of a sudden you can’t remember how to say a word in that language, yet it comes to you in another. Our brain can do us dirty when it comes to communicating, making us talk in what others will consider gibberish. 

2. You’re influenced by your environments.

If your coworker only speaks English, you will talk in English. If the restaurant is French, you will talk in French. If the environment suggests or accepts one language over the other and you know how to speak it, chances are you will choose to speak it rather than speaking others. Your brain picks up signals that indicate or hint to one language rather than another and will probably save you from saying things twice. Our environments play a big factor when it comes to communicating. We don't address our teachers or parents the way we do our friends, and the same occurs when it comes to switching from one language to another.

3. You want to keep something in secret.

Admit it. If you find yourself talking with a friend and another comes along, you'll code-switch to keep your conversation in private. I see no shame in code-switching to preserve conversations that don't necessarily regard others. Code-switching gives bilinguals and polyglots the advances of completely blocking a third person from their chat, which can save you from an argument or discussion or get you into one. People find it very disrespectful when they're the victim of code-switching, as they may think you're talking about them (even if you might not be). So make sure to code-switch with precaution. 

4. You can't think and speak in the same language.

Talking is hard, but imagine thinking in one language and transferring that to another. People who have mastered the ability to be fluent in two languages will always have a level of difficulty when it comes to expressing or talking. Thoughts generate in your native language because you're more comfortable and fluent in it, yet you might have to answer in another. It might take a while and a few mistakes might be made, but it can be done. 


5. Your friends are bilinguals or polyglots.

If you speak more than one language, there's a big possibility your friends do too. One very common way code-switching is seen is in Spanglish or other mixtures of languages. Among Puerto Ricans, Spanglish is highly popular and done unconsciously. Think about your last conversation with your group of friends. Was it mostly in one language or do you unconsciously switch it up? If so, welcome to the code-switch epidemic.

There are tons of more reasons for why people participate in code-switching, from being more comfortable with one language rather than others, wanting to come across entirely clear, or even to fit in among groups. Code-switching is great because it allows you to perfect your levels of fluency in the languages you speak, it helps you grow as a member of society and provides tons of doors to network. The next time you find yourself switching from one language to another, own it and be proud of yourself; there's a ton of people out there that only speak one boring language.

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