Reasons for (and against) Code-Switching
24 Apr 2013
NPR has a blog called code switch now, and recently published an article called Five Reasons Why People Code-Switch. I recommend you read it in full if you’re at all interested in the linguistic phenomenon of code-switching, but for the purposes of this blog post I’ll some up the five reasons listed:
1. A certain language feels more appropriate in a “primal” state
2. To fit in to a certain linguistic environment
3. To be treated “like a local”
4. To communicate in secret
5. It helps convey a concept more “native” to a certain language
Code-switching is a well-researched linguistic phenomenon, and you can go into it way deeper than the NPR article does (just check out the references of the Wikipedia article on code-switching).
But while in Beijing over the weekend, I was reminded of another aspect of code-switching: it can be annoying. Although the act of code-switching is generally accepted as “normal,” there are still limits. People can code-switch too rapid-fire, or for “the wrong reasons.” (Alas, the Wikipedia article does not comment on “when code-switching gets annoying.”)
So assuming that non-comprehension isn’t a factor, what are the circumstances under which code-switching becomes annoying? I would guess that a flagrant violation of reason #5 above would be the most annoying… switching to another language to express a thoroughly generic concept, rather than for a “culturally justified” reason. Worse yet: doing that repeatedly. This was the one that came up in my recent conversation.
I’m curious, though, what factors might also make code-switching annoying. Some thoughts:
1. Code-switching too often, and for no discernible purpose
2. Code-switching which seems to be for the purpose of showing off
I’m pretty tolerant of code-switching, though. Maybe you readers have other reasons to add?