Code Switching

Code Switching

October 16, 2020 Uncategorized 18

This past week as a part of #DoTheWork you were asked to read and reflect on code switching.

  • How would you explain code switching to someone who has never heard of the term before?
  • After completing #DoTheWork Day 18: Code Switching, have you noticed yourself or the people around you code switching? If yes, please explain.
  • Based on what you have learned, what is the value of code switching and what are the pitfalls for members of marginalized groups?
Please take time to respond to at least one peer’s blog post. Use this space to ask questions, challenge each other, and learn.

18 Responses

  1. Michael Averill says:

    As Chandra Arthur states in her Ted Talk, code switching is, by definition, when someone who speaks multiple languages alternates between two or more, oftentimes in the same phrase or sentence. Arthur goes on however, to describe that code switching in our society refers to the ability of a person to seamlessly transition between various forms of expressing themselves. The way I would describe the term to someone who has not heard of it before would be through the use of an analogy. Take for instance, two coworkers who are also very close friends. When discussing an upcoming project with one another, they may talk very colloquially, without putting too much thought into their off the cuff speech. When their boss appears however, to receive an update on their progress, the two coworkers would most likely transition to a much more professional style of speech, expressing themselves in a way that meets the expectations of the company. This professionalism may not be a reflection of who the coworkers truly are, but is necessary for them to convey to their boss in order to succeed at their jobs.

    On a college campus, I often see people code switching. Naturally, people are most comfortable around their friends and speak with them in a very casual way that would be unacceptable if used with professors or other figures of authority at the college. Yet, code switching goes beyond just professionalism versus colloquialism. I think a distinct difference that I have seen at Siena is between students that come from New York City and students that come from suburbs such as the counties of Long Island, Westchester, and even areas around the Capital Region such as Clifton Park and Saratoga. I remember in my freshman year during first-year-seminar when the students from New York City expressed their surprise for how different their classmates were at Siena compared to at home. New York City students quickly realized that in order to fit in at Siena, they would have to master their ability to code switch so that suburban students and professors would have a sense of comfort in communicating with them. This example is a testament to the power dynamics of a school like Siena. Even seemingly minor details such as the way we communicate with one another can reinforce who are the “standard-bearers” of the college and who is forced to adapt in order to fit in.

    I think that this dynamic at Siena undoubtedly hurts people of color on campus. During my freshman and sophomore year of Bonner, older members of the program, especially those from New York City expressed their own personal struggles with code switching. Siena did not reflect their home experiences with self-expression and communication. They said that over the course of their four years, it was a large learning curve in order to adapt to becoming a Siena Saint. Our college emphasizes diversity as a key pillar of our mission, but if we are forcing marginalized groups to become accustomed to code switching in order to succeed at the college, then are we really valuing diversity at all? I think that a campus-wide discussion on code switching, specifically through the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center could be very beneficial for the Siena community going forward.

    • Cody Romani says:

      Hey Michael! I really like your response to this discussion. I really think that Siena needs to a better job of embracing diversity on campus. I like your idea of a campus-wide discussion on code switching. People need to be accepted for who they are. I think that this will benefit the entire Siena College community and lead to more of an inclusive environment.

    • Jack McKenna says:

      Hey Michael,

      I like that you address ways in which code switching occurs on Siena’s campus. As an upperclassman you have more experience on this campus and been exposed to the issues other students may face. As well as notice patterns with these issues. Since I’ve only had one full semester on campus so far, I haven’t picked up on these issues. I’m sure other underclassmen appreciate it as well, as we care about our Siena community and want to create change here as well as in the larger community.

  2. Cody Romani says:

    Code switching occurs when a person alternatives between two or more forms of language/communication. When code switching, a person often changes their expressions. Some people naturally code switch while others code switch in order to fit in.

    After completing #DoTheWork Day 18, I have noticed myself and people around me practice code switching. I participate code switching during my day-to-day conversations. I have more formal conversations with my professors than I do with my peers and family members. I am more professional around my professors. I also see students change the way they express themselves in order to fit in with a group. People should not have to change their views in order to receive acceptance from others.

    In her Ted Talk, Chandra Arthur discusses the pitfalls associated with code switching. She discusses her experiences with code switching and how she learned to act like her peers in school in other to fit in. She mentions that code switching threatens diversity. People should not treated differently because of their culture and how they look. Instead, we need to create a world where everyone is praised and accepted for their uniqueness. We need to come together and embrace diversity and peoples’ cultures.

    • Samantha Gisleson says:

      Cody, I liked how you pointed out the difference between “natural” code switching and code switching to fit in. This is something that I think is very important to point out. I also agree that people should not have to change to be accepted. It is one thing to have formal conversation with your professor and then a very informal one with a friend. However, one should not have to change their appearance or hide an accent in order to avoid making others uncomfortable. I agree that we need to appreciate our difference and diversity. I only hope that someday we can create a world where people see the value in cultural differences.

  3. Samantha Gisleson says:

    Code switching, in simple terms, is changing your demeanor in different social settings. It is the act of switching between the different “selves” you have created for the different social spheres within your life (work, friends, family, school, etc.). Code switching involves many forms of expression, from your tone of voice, to the words you use, to the way you carry yourself. This includes how you stand, what you wear, how you style your hair, and more. When people code switch, they are still themselves, but they are altering their personas given the current situation at hand.

    One way in which I have always observed code switching is when visiting a friend’s home. How my friend acts around me and their parents is often very different, and it can be interesting to watch the switch happen live. I think that we often do not even realize we are doing it, because it becomes such a normal part of our routine.

    Although code switching is necessary in some settings; for example, how you act at work compared to how you act at home. It is valuable in this sense, meaning that we are able to adapt to different situations. However, members of marginalized groups often have to code switch much more than white members of society. As Chandra mentioned, code switching expectations can threaten diversity. Code switching can require people to “switch” in order to be culturally compatible. In this sense, they are changing who they are rather than just switching between their different selves. POC often do this so as not to appear “threatening.” This is not fair. No one should ever have to change their style, their voice, their use of language, or another characteristic in order to make a white person comfortable. People should be able to express themselves freely.

  4. Jackson Regan says:

    The best way I could define code switching is when someone switches their language, behavior and/or voice between different people based on their race, ethnicity, location, or occupation. It’s a very vague term that is difficult to define, and to be honest I had never heard of this until now. I’d say the biggest way I code-switch is between talking to my girl friends and guy friends. With my guy friends, especially ones from sports, I am very “masculine”: “Hey bro!”, “Wassup my dude”, and many other stereotypical guy phrases. With girls, I’m more of a conversationalist, to the point where I could go on for hours in a manner that apparently guys aren’t supposed to be capable of, stereotypically. My example however, is very shallow. With people of color and minorities, code switching, to me, embodies stereotypes. You talk to a black guy a different way you would talk to a white guy, and that pushes stereotypes.

    • Abigail Hoekman says:

      Jackson, I thought it was great that you discussed code-switching as it pertains to not only racial stereotypes but also gender stereotypes. When looking at intersectionalities and the many identities that people hold, it is important we address how our gender expression influences code-switching. It is important to look at people with all of their identities together (race, gender expression, religion, age, ability, etc.) because each identity may influence how we code-switch and the manner in which we are able to relate to those around us.

  5. Abigail Hoekman says:

    Code-switching is a skill that many people utilize without realizing it. To code-switch means to alter your speech or mannerisms in some form, whether it be the language you are speaking, the tone or pronunciation of your words, or perhaps even your body language. This often occurs subconsciously as we go about our day and interact in a variety of settings and across different groups of people.

    After completing the #DoTheWork Day 18, I have noticed code-switching in myself and those around me. Personally, I have noticed that how I speak with friends and family is much more casual in the sense that I may not use very proper language or disregard things like grammar when I am speaking casually. I feel more myself in this form of speaking where I can be witty and make jokes and express myself in a way that I am unable to during class or other professional settings. For instance, when I am in a class or at service or speaking with a superior, I often speak more “proper” meaning I pay attention to my grammar, pronunciations, and use more sophisticated words as opposed to any modern slang that I would use with friends. One issue I have found with code-switching is that if this skill is not well practice, it can get you into trouble. For example, I have tried to eliminate/ minimize swearing in my vocabulary because I found this aspect of speaking to be challenging to switch on and off during casual and professional settings. Therefore, I decided to make a more permanent change to avoid swearing in a setting where it would have been inappropriate to do so. Code-switching takes a lot of mental energy and is a skill that is practiced over time as we learn what settings and around what people certain language, speech, and behaviors are acceptable. We learn these unspoken rules through media like television and movies and simply through observation of those around us.

    I found Chandra Arthur’s story of police coming to her home with guns drawn to be particularly disturbing. This instance was life-threatening and it was only due to her many years of practicing code-switching that she was able to communicate with police that this was her home. It makes me think about all of the people of color who have been brutally murdered in their own homes or randomly on the street. Code-switching is yet another way my privilege is evident. I only have to worry about professional verse casual speech. However, even then I know I am not at risk because the color of my skin holds a lot of weight into how I am perceived by those around me in everyday life; which is a definite privilege that I have never considered as it pertains to code-switching prior to exploring the resources and prompts of #DoTheWork. I am grateful for these resources that continue to open my eyes to the privileges I hold and helping me learn ways I can leverage this privilege for the benefit of those who are born without it.

    • Marlie says:

      Hi Abby! I loved reading your discussion post. I think you did a fabulous job at explaining code switching and how you have seen it in yourself. Without practicing code switching, you can definitely get yourself into trouble, and even more so if you are a person of color. I also found Chandra’s account of police coming to her home with guns drawn to be terrifying. I agree that it was due to her ability to code switch that potentially saved her life. I do not have to worry about a situation like that and learning about it opens my eyes to additional privileges I have in my everyday life.

  6. Marlie says:

    Code switching is when an individual changes their language or dialect in conversation. After completing #DoTheWork Day 18: Code Switching, I have definitely recognized the position that code switching puts people in. I find myself doing it in a very minimal way, such as changing the way I talk to friends and family vs a professor. I see it more seriously among individuals who are forced to suppress their accent of the homeland or of a grandparent and are then seen as threatening or unprofessional due to their differences. The “value” of code switching is being able to change yourself to fit various settings. However, I see it more as a pitfall, particularly for members of marginalized groups. One of the most impactful statements during this Ted talk was, “the expectation of code switching threatens true diversity.” I think this point is so important because individuals are forced to alter themselves in order to fit into a particular situation, limiting differences in society. By practicing code switching, the speaker, Chandra Arthur, was not shot when police came to her house for a suspected burglary. This point stuck with me and has been something I have considered since doing this day of #DoTheWork.

    • Amanda Molloy says:

      Hi Marlie! I think the quote you include from the Ted talk about how code switching threatens diversity gives a really good understanding of how the societal expectation to code switch puts a burden on the people who feel forced to do it. Like you also mention with Chandra Arthur’s situation, sometimes code switching can be a matter of life and death for people which is pretty disturbing. I have also thought a lot about the impact of code switching on marginalized groups since learning about it.

  7. Amanda Molloy says:

    If someone did not know what code switching was I would explain it by saying it is when someone has to change the way they speak, like their language, or act depending on the group they are with. I feel like I do notice myself changing the way I act around different groups of people but only in the way that there might be a difference in the way that I talk to my parents versus my professors versus my friends. I think the reasons I do it, however, is different from the reasons and pressures to code switch within marginalized groups. I think one value people might see in code switching would be the ability to adapt to one’s environment but I also do not think it is healthy for people to have to change who they are based on who they are with. One thing I wrote down when doing Day 18 of Do the Work was that people should not have to tone down their culture to make others feel comfortable and I think this sums up how code switching can be a stress and disadvantage for marginalized groups.

    • Ava Bibisi says:

      Amanda, I can agree with you when you mention talking differently around parents than with friends. I find myself doing the same, but not for the same reasonings that those in marginalized groups do so. I never thought about how stressed individuals can get when it comes to code switching because to some, it could be a day-to-day occurrence. We may be getting stressed abut too much school work, or our grades, but others are stressed out about having to show their true identities. Sometimes we are part of the problem as to why individuals are code switching and can be apart of the action in limiting this stressor just by being aware of it.

  8. Ava Bibisi says:

    If I were to explain code switching to an individual, I’d say that it is when a person has to switch who they are through their language or actions due to the group they are interacting with. More often than not, we fall into code switching without even realizing we are doing so. After completing DoTheWork I became more apparent to these conditions and it became more noticeable to me when I saw peers having to feel this need to flip a switch and turn off who they are. Especially coming to college as a freshman, we are trying to “fit in” and make friends and sometimes we feel that putting on a face for what we need to be like is the only way to do so. In marginalized groups, individuals feel segregated and aren’t always embraced fully on their culture. Society is what makes them feel this way, and after participating in DoTheWork, I’ve realized that we need to be more accepting of all the aspects that people who are different from us have to offer. We shouldn’t look at someone and instantly think about their differences, but rather use what’s unique about each person to greater who we are as well as make them feel comfortable in their skin instead of feeling obligated to code switch.

    • Rachel Gifford says:

      Hey Ava, I really liked your comment about being a freshman in college and realizing how often people code switch in order to fit in. I also realized that I code switch a lot in my life after completing DoTheWork. I also love your comment on the importance of diversity and accepting one another for who they are.

  9. Jack McKenna says:

    Simply put, code switching refers to one’s ability to express themselves in a variety of ways, and do so seamlessly . For example, if you are talking with friends about a class you were just in, your expressions will be more geared towards your age group and less formal. Then, if your professor approaches with a question or comment, you are able to drop the familiarity and speak with them on a professional level.

    Personally, since this weeks DoTheWork, I’ve noticed myself code switching not only with who I’m talking to, but also the topic that’s being discussed. Especially around election time, there are many sensitive and heavy topics that are bound to come up. When then do, regardless of who I’m talking with, I start using proper terminology, drop the slang, annd speak as clearly and concisely as possible.

    One value of code switching is being able to communicate with many groups of people. The flip side of this is a pitfall, as Chandra Author discussed. Growing up, we all code switch as a way to fit in with our peers and not be outcasted. Unfortunately this behavior continues into adulthood and can lead to decreased diversity. The past few years, immigration has become a controversial topic that divides people in this country. For those who are strongly opposed to it, and are racist or have prejudices against people of other cultures. A common example of this I’ve seen on social media and the news is people who are speaking another language, or dressed in religious or cultural clothing, being told to go back where they come from. This puts a lot of unnecessary pressure for those people to conform, otherwise they are at risk of verbal and physical attacks.

  10. Rachel Gifford says:

    Code switching is when a person acts differently in different situations. They unconsciously switch from one form of expression to another. An example of this could be how you act around your friends versus how you act around your teachers. There are multiple different types of code switching and even if you code switch it doesn’t mean that the way you are expressing yourself isn’t a part of your personality. For people of color they are often forced to codeswitch in order to fit in and act in a way that others expect of them. That doesn’t mean that their form of expression in front of white people isn’t a part of them, but it isn’t right that they are forced to adapt to our standards instead of being accepted for any way they express themselves. Code Switching also limits diversity and it can force people to suppress aspects of their personality in order to become like everyone else. Sometimes Code Switching is a means of survival for people of color because they may be killed if they aren’t skilled at code switching. If they act upset or don’t code switch they could be killed by police when white people wouldn’t be killed for acting in the same way. There is a double standard where people of color are expected to code switch more than white people. However, I have noticed myself code switching a lot in my life. Most of my code switching occurs when I am with different groups of people or I code switch depending upon which friends I am around. I still act like myself but at a different level. For some friends I will be spontaneous and outgoing while with others I will be quiet, and more introverted. Both aspects are still me, but I’ve learned that in certain situations I can show my full self and in others it is better if I suppress aspects of my personality. Code switching can save people’s lives, but it also leads to the suppression of diversity.

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