Code Switch

On April 13, 2013, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

 

What’s a code switch?

Well, I do it when I talk to older black folks. They are my elders, and I get all sing-songy when I talk to someone who deserves my respect. I often don’t know these people well, but I treat them a lot like I would treat my grandparents.

I didn’t think anything of my code switching, until the man, who would later become my husband, pointed it out to me way back in the 1990s. He said I talked differently with an older black gentleman. He was right. I haven’t given it much thought, but I’m sure I’ve code switched many, many times since then.

Code Switch is also the name of a new race, culture, and ethnicity blog at National Public Radio, and bloggers there have rounded up several examples of code switching. Check it out and welcome Code Switch to the race, culture and ethnicity blogging neighborhood.

 
  • Blanc2

    I was born i West Virginia, but raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I’d spend school years in the UP, and summers in rural West Virginia. Both places at that time had very strong regional dialects and accents. I learned from an early age to code switch.
    Linguists who study these things will tell you that code switching is the norm in most parts of the world, and in fact for most people swtiching not just between slang or dialect, but between actual languages, is the norm. This process actually enhances the brain’s ability to learn language.
    I had a friend from South Africa who grew up speaking four languages: her local “tribal” language (Twsana); Africaans (the official language of the country); Swahili (a lingua franca throuough much of Africa); and of course English.
    You might recall that the issue of code-switching was the genesis of the infamous “Ebonics Resolution” by the Oakland (California) school board, back in the 1990′s, which lead to an article by a then unknown linguistics prof at Cal named John McWhorter. McWhorter later expanded his article into a book called “Word on the Street” — a fantastic read, by the way — which launched his career as a pundit.