What Is Code-switching? What Is The Use of It?


24th Nov'21
What Is Code-switching? What Is The Use of It? | OpenGrowth

“Code-switching is dancing between vocal styles and rhythms. This dance is a celebration of richness, intricacies, and blurry borders of our culture.” - Nadia Owusu.

Communicating your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or opinions to others is a very astonishing thing to do. The language we speak, the way we behave reveal our identity and the region we belong to. Often multilingual speakers communicate in two or more languages to create an impact on their audience. 

But is knowing more languages related to code-switching? Yes, it is! Read more to know. 


What is Code-switching?

When a speaker alternates or jumps between two or more languages in a conversation is called code-switching. For example, When a speaker switches from English to French in one dialect, the speaker is code-switching.

Not only in language but code-switching is also used while writing too mainly conversational writing. Code-switching is used as a weapon to make the writing or the conversation more effective and meaningful. 


Types of Code-switching 

There are majorly three types of code-switchings. 


Inter-sentential code-switching is done at sentence boundaries with words or phrases at the beginning or end of the sentence. 

Example- Tum Kaha ho, I am waiting!

In the above example, two languages Hindi and English, are used. 



In Intra-sentential code-switching, the middle sentence is shifted without any interruption to indicate the shift. In this kind of code-switching, the speaker is also unaware of the changes made in the speech. Switching is very common in languages that share a common family, like French and English.

Example- I live in India, et tu?

In the above example two languages, English and French, are used.


Tag Switching 

In this type of code-switching, a word or a phrase from another language is tagged in the sentence. This is way similar to inter-sentential code-switching. In the below example, you can see how two different languages are used in a single statement. 

Example- I had lunch, Tú que tal?

In the above example, two languages, English and Spanish, are used.




Why do speakers use code-switching?

There are several reasons for a person to switch from one language to another in a sentence or a conversation. We have described a few of them below.


The Feeling to Fit in

The feeling to fit in the atmosphere can sometimes consciously and unconsciously lead to talking like the people in the surroundings. Code-switching, according to people around, mostly turns out to be effective. 


To Exclude Others

Sometimes code-switching is used to exclude someone from the conversation who doesn’t know the second language. For example, if two people are talking in a lift, they speak in French in an English-speaking place. Then the others in the lift will eventually be excluded from the conversation. So, if you are thinking of discussing politics at work? think again.


To Express

Sometimes it becomes difficult to speak one language in one go. So the speaker chose to switch the language to express one’s feelings. Usually, this happens when a speaker is sad, tired, or maybe less fluent in one language. 


Sometimes Speaker  is Oblivious 

This happens in routine life when the speaker is unaware of code-switching. At times people slip into different languages or accents without even realizing or intending to do it.


To Show Solidarity

Code-switching is also common to express solidarity. When an individual wishes to show unity in a particular social group, code-switching helps connect with more people of the same dialect.


The Benefits of Code-switching

Code-switching is helpful in many ways, either in a group or in a one-to-one conversation. One can fit in easily by jumping from one language to another. This is how to build relationships virtually through code-switching. Here are some major uses of code-switching. 


  • Makes the conversation more impactful. 

  • Allows the speaker to convey more emotions with the bigger pool of words.

  • Knowing more than one language can enhance achievement.

  • To exclude people around from the conversation.


Drawback of Code-switching

Code-switching can sometimes create miscommunication and misinterpretation. This can lead to differences between two people or any community.




Is Code-switching the same as Code-mixing?

People usually get confused between the terms code-switching and code-mixing. In both terms, the speaker jumps from one language to another to complete the sentence by using phrases or clauses.

But the minor difference between both the terms is: 

In code-switching, the speaker intentionally uses a second language to make the conversation more effective. Whereas in code-mixing, the speaker unintentionally uses a second language. The reason is the speaker may not know the correct word or phrase to use in the sentence. 



Code-switching is a phenomenon that is unavoidable for bilingual communities. Code-switching is the result of globalization. It can be used beneficially in many ways. Although it can sometimes turn awkward, leading to a communication gap, using code-switching properly is purposeful and useful for use.


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An explorer who takes risks and learns from her mistakes. An aspirational content writer, studying social work. Kajal loves trying her hands in different crafts.