Code Switching

An interesting anecdote about bilingualism, code-switching and identity.

As we move from our unit on language and power into our next unit (language and identity / social relations), there is a particular topic which is relevant to both, and will thus serve as a nice ‘bridge’: code switching.  What follows are some resources which will be handy during our lessons and they may also be useful resources for upcoming further oral activities or written tasks.

1. This article, entitled ‘Five Reasons Why People Code-Switch’, is published on a blog that focuses on this single topic:

2. This article, also from the same blog, is entitled ‘How Code Switching Explains the World’. It is worthwhile reading and also has links to four video examples that are quite entertaining!

3. The following is a rather lengthy psychological experimental report that does have some easy to understand conclusions:


  1. How is language used as an instrument to show social, racial, and class differences in various texts?
  2. When is language used to exclude?   To include?  Why?
  3. How does one’s use of language (e.g. dialect, accent, jargon etc…) define him or herself as an individual as well as part of a community?


  1. After reading the articles above and watching the four videos, choose one case study and one or more of the focus questions (i.e. Choose one of the videos).  Write a blog entry answering one of the above questions in relation to the text.  Provide a link to the video on your blog as well.
  2. For the second task, you will be given a newspaper article A or B.  Take it home, read (and annotate if you wish) and then summarise the article using the S-P-W routine (Sentence, phrase, word).  You must choose and quote one full sentence, then a phrase, then a word to summarise the article.  Bring back tomorrow to share with a partner who has read the other article.
  3. After sharing with a partner, complete the following questions individually in your notebook.

a)     In what ways do the articles celebrate language diversity?

b)     Are the articles critical of language diversity?  Language blending?  Language change?

c)     What are the possible reasons for people who ‘code switch’ to feel self-conscious about using language combinations in public?

d)    Why would linguists be interested in studying language change?

e)     What are the possible reasons for wanting to slow or stop the change of language use in a particular country?

f)      How should public education, in a given country, handle the instruction of the dominant native language?  How should educator s approach language variations?


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