CODE-SWITCHING: Jumping Between 2 Different Languages

CODE-SWITCHING: Jumping Between 2 Different Languages

Follow Langfocus on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Hello everyone, (see screen) Some people are monolingual and speak just one language. Other people are bilingual or multilingual and speak more than one language. Bilingual or multilingual people sometimes switch back and forth between two or more different languages. This is called code switching. One situation in which code switching is common is within immigrant families. For example let’s imagine a Russian family moves from Russia to the United States and the children grow up speaking Russian as their native language but they learn English outside of their home. When the children of that home speak to their sibling, they might code switch between Russian and English. Another situation where code switching is common is in certain countries where a native language is spoken alongside a former colonial language. One example that comes to mind is in India where Hindi-English code switching is common. And another example is in the Philippines where Tagalog-English code switching is common. You may have seen my earlier video on “Diglossia”, which means switching between 2 different languages or 2 different forms of a language in different situations. For example, formal versus informal situations. Code switching is different in that people switch languages in a single situation within a single conversation and sometimes within a single sentence. Code switching is largely unpredictable and speakers often impulsively switch languages without any conscious choice. In code switching one language is the dominant language, normally the native language of the group. This is sometimes called the matrix language and the additional language is called the embedded language. The matrix language lays out the basis for the communication and then utterances from the additional language are embedded into the matrix language. There are various reasons why people might switch from their matrix language to an embedded language. Number one: Directive function. People switch languages to either include or exclude other people from the conversation. Maybe you want to tell secrets, so you switch to a language that the people around you don’t understand or maybe the opposite. Maybe you want to end the private conversation and re-engage with the people around you, so you switch to a language that they do understand. Number two: Expressive function. People include the embedded language in order to express some part of their identity. For example, they want to show their connection to a certain country or culture. And in some cases it might be an expression of status through association with the prestigious outgroup. Number three: Referential function. Someone who is unable to express an idea easily in one language, switches to the other language in order to express it more easily. This seems to be very common among bilingual children and immigrant families. Number four: Phatic function. Sometimes the speaker switches languages or repeats something both languages in order to emphasize it. Number five: Metalinguistic function. This is reporting something in the other language, or commenting on something said in the other language. For example, you’re speaking in Japanese but then you quote a lyric from an English language song, without translating it. Maybe you say something in the embedded language but then you explain it or add further commentary in the matrix language. Number six: Poetic function. The speaker says certain words or makes jokes in the embedded language for amusement or for some kind of artistic purpose. Code switching takes a few different forms. Here are some of the main ones. Number one: Intersentential switching, in which the language switched for entire sentences or clauses. For example, a bilingual Spanish-English speaker says: ”Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in English y termino en español.” Number two: intrasentential switching, the speaker switched languages within a clause or sentence boundary. Here’s an example from a bilingual English-Portuguese speaker’s speech: “I don’t know o meu lugar nesse mundo”. This means :”I don’t know my place in this world”. Number three: Extra-sentential or “tag-switching”. A tag from one language is inserted into an utterance in another language. For example a bilingual English-Japanese speaker might say: “It’s a good movie, deshou?” meaning, it’s a good movie right? Let’s look at a couple of cases of code switching. The first one is from the Indian movie: “The Three Idiots”. The matrix language is Hindi and the embedded language is English. The background to the scene is that the director of the university is welcoming the incoming freshmen students. “Don’t forget के हरै साल ICE में चारे लाख select होते हैं। you! Now let’s take a look at the sentence we just heard. The sentence means: “Don’t forget, ICE receives 400 000 applications a year, and of those only 200 are selected: YOU!” The first clause of this sentence, “don’t forget”, is in English, this is intersentential code-switching because the switching occurs at the clause boundary. This is probably done to draw attention to the phrase, which is the phatic function. “Applications” is also in English, switching within the clause or sentence boundaries. I suspect that this word is in English because it’s referring to college applications and words related to academic affairs are probably said very frequently in English. “Select” is also in English, this is intrasentential switching again. The speaker or the scriptwriters probably chose to say this word in English in order to emphasize the importance of this action of selecting the freshman students. And of course “You” is in English. This is intersentential because it occurs at the clause boundary. This word was probably set apart and said in English in order to emphasize the selection of these particular students. So again that’s the phatic function. In general the speaker in this scene might be using English because he’s the director of a university and English is seen as an integral part of academic life. Let’s look at a second example, this time from the Filipino movie: “My Babe Love”. Now the background to the scene is that the young woman’s father and the young man’s aunt have started dating each other. Let’s take a look at the whole scene first. Guy: “ So, ok lang ba sa iyo yung Dad mo sa ka young …” Girl: “Of course not! Nothing personal ha pero excuse me ang ganda ng mommy ko.” Guy: “So, ano ang ibig sabihin?” Girl: “Wala. Sinasabi ko ang magandang mommy ko.” Guy: “So, aunty ko hindi?” Girl: “Well, mas maganda ang mommy ko.” Guy: ”Well, mabait ang aunty ko.” Girl: “Still mas maganda ang mommy ko.” Guy: ”Fine!” Girl: “And besides, ayo ko rin naman Aunty mo para sa Daddy ko. if that what you wanted to hear.” Guy: ”Edi good. At least we agreed on something.” Girl: “I have to go now. Baka hinahanap na ako ng… Bye. Now let’s look at a few parts of that scene again and break them down. Guy: “ So, ok lang ba sa iyo yung Dad mo sa ka young …” Girl: “Of course not! Nothing personal ha pero excuse me ang ganda ng mommy ko.” Here we see intrasentential switching with English phrases embedded into a Tagalog sentence. In her reply I think the woman switched to English to emphasize certain points. The main message of her reply, that her mother is beautiful, is in Tagalog but this is an emotional conversation and the English phrases draw attention to how she’s feeling. Guy: “So, ano ang ibig sabihin?” Girl: “Wala. Sinasabi ko ang magandang mommy ko.” Guy: “ So, aunty ko hindi?” Girl: “Well, mas maganda ang mommy ko.” Here we see extra-sentential switching or tag switching. The interjection “well” is in English, but the rest of the sentence is in Tagalog. “Well” is a word that often comes before a correction or something the other person has said. She says it with some obvious annoyance, so again I think she’s using the English word to draw attention to the fact that she’s correcting this guy. Guy:” Well, mabait ang aunty ko.” Girl: “Still mas maganda ang mommy ko.” Guy: ”Fine!” Here we see the same kind of tag switching with “Still”. That word basically rejects the guy’s response. And by doing it in English she’s drawing attention to that rejection. Girl: “And besides, ayo ko rin naman Aunty mo para sa Daddy ko. If that what you wanted to hear.” The first sentence here too begins with tag switching and then she switched to English again for the entire second sentence. Her second sentence is spoken with some resentment and I think it’s said in English to emphasize that. Guy: ”Edi good. At least we agreed on something.” The first interjection, “Edi good”, means good then, and is a kind of vindictive expression and then in the second sentence the guy speaks entirely in English. I think this shows that he’s starting to lose his cool and get annoyed. Making his speech more emphatic. Girl: “I have to go now. Baka hinahanap na ako ng… Bye.” In this final comment from the woman we see intersentential switching. And I think she basically emphasizes the important point by using English and de-emphasizes the less important point by using Tagalog. The important point is that she’s leaving and the reason for leaving is unimportant. And she may even want it to be obvious that the reason is a made-up excuse. She quickly rushes through her excuse in Tagalog. Almost too quickly to even understand. This kind of code switching using basically fifty percent English and fifty percent Tagalog is quite common in the Philippines especially amongst middle-class and upper-class people. The reason for switching is not always emotional like in that scene but it’s more often an expression of identity and status. Code switching is very common in certain bilingual or multilingual environments. And I hope that these examples gave you some insight into how and why it’s used in certain situations. The question of the day,for people who live in a bilingual environment: “Do you often code switch between 2 different languages? Tell us a little bit about how and why you code switch.” Be sure to follow Langfocus on facebook, twitter and Instagram. And once again I’d like to say thank you to all of my fantastic patreon supporters, especially these ones right here on the screen. Thank you for watching and have a nice day.

79 thoughts on “CODE-SWITCHING: Jumping Between 2 Different Languages

  • Again, at 3:46 that portuguese is brazilian not european… I just say this because the flag shown is Portugal's 😅

  • I'm half Korean from the US and live in Korea but code switch often to English because I don't know a lot of Sino-Korean words. So when I'm expressing more complex thoughts, I have to use English. But there are times in English talking about Korean cultural references when i have to use Korean words so that I don't have to explain that situation.

  • I needed this video after having watched an Indian movie on Netflix just yesterday. The fact that they constantly switched between 2 languages irritated the fuck out of me.

  • I do speak three languages. But code switching is very hard for me. Since I have the grammar in mind and it may sometimes be wildly different between languages as you know.

  • It's so common for me. German/English code switching at home and German/Turkish with some friends, and sometimes when on holidays in the Netherlands it may be German/English/Dutch. It just comes naturally depending on the situation, but sometimes it's on purpose to keep things secret.

  • Im from trilingual family n we always do that do that without noticing n when we r out pp heard us n they will say we r trying to boast n then criticise us n i was like do u think i give a fuck n care a jot jajaja. as long as i know our intentions r right. Lmao this world is hopeless shake my freaking head.

  • I’m an Italian guy who goes to an International School in which over half the students are either Italian like me or speak it perfectly. When I happen to speak to other Italians, I still speak with them in the English language, but it’s for none of the reasons you stated in your video: I simply do it because I’m introvert and want to feel detached from them.

  • I do this all the time on accident, like I'm writing in Polish, there's a name in English and I write the rest in English unconsciously. I'm glad that my best friend knows English pretty well, because I sometimes talk to her in English

  • Yes
    Bilingual Québécois, both Anglophone and Francophone, often switch back and forth and interject words and phrases from both French and English.
    New Brunswickers in Moncton and the eastern shore areas can be so bilingual that they switch almost word by word, using whatever seems to be expedient in the moment.
    Apparently research shows that people who speak more than one language have equal access to each one and each language is as accessible as the the other(s) within the brain.
    It’s almost a compulsion to use the second language. It’s not always for emphasis or anything other than just because it’s a part of one’s vocabulary and makes communication “more so”.
    N’est-ce pas?
    Good video

  • The three idiots example is really more of Hinglish than a code switching, it did not begin at all with code switching and later evolved not at all. The British created education systems and those can be expressed in English only but with indian sentiments after indian independence.

  • When you learn a subject or even an entire domain of knowledge in one language it becomes your primary point of reference. you often don't even know the words to precisely describe the concept in another language. This is often just basically a question of mastery of the language tied to domain. After all words for most part only serve as communication labels to express the concepts in the brain. If you create a completely new concept -that's how new words appear. However for most part this is not needed because most words are already invented before even for complicated things – you learn them along learning and studying the subject. And if it is necessary to invent a new word you have to first to explain it to other people – hence why truly new ideas have hard time spreading until critical mass of people already understands the concepts.

  • I just found this channel, and wow, does this video hit some familiar notes with me. I'm far from bilingual, but I've had a lot of exposure to Japanese from my grandmother, and it affects my speech in different ways even if I don't speak it with any degree of fluency.

    I'm more prone to code-switching casually when around certain people based on comfort or knowing they understand what I mean, like at home or with friends, while I actively try to avoid it at work or other places where it might get a more awkward reaction. But it can also be that I might have "lost my English" for a moment, and blurted something out in the language it came to mind in. I also have a strong tendency toward more Japanese verbal pauses ("anou" or "eeto" instead of "umm") and exclamations, and the "deshou?" example in the video and similar things are not uncommon in my speech patterns. It's a lot of little expressive things like that, with the bigger "no, wait, what's the English for this thing?" probably being far more infrequent compared to people who are more properly bilingual than I am.

  • I never knew it has is own name. I speak indonesian, javanese, and english, and while mostly speak in indonesian (uncultured javanese i am), i often inserted some javanese words unintentionally that sometimes i wonder whether one word is actually indonesian slang or javanese. I often get told that my indonesian has thick javanese accent, but my javanese sounds funny and unnatural 😂
    And sometimes i insert some english words because i don't know what's the word in indonesian nor javanese, and it is usually intentional. Just now in conversation i insert the word 'sugarcoat' because wth that is in indonesian 😂

  • I have a hard time differentiating between the different types of code-switching. Is there anyone who clarify this for me? Thank you! 🙂

  • I am Filipino, and English is a second language. I understand few Spanish words, because the country was a colony for 3 centuries. But I don't speak it. I speak one dialect, Kina-ray-a. It focuses on 'r' sounds and a vowel that sounds like 'u' but not completely. Weird. Languages are interesting.

  • En France, quelqu'un qui place des mots anglais dans une conversation en français est mal vu, cela donne l'impression qu'il se sent supérieur, qu'il fait son hipster de merde haha.

  • I come from a bilingual family and certain family members are always switching back and forth from English to French and back. We call int "Franglais". I am fluent in both English and French and sometimes struggle to follow the conversation trying to think in two languages at once.

  • My friends and I used to code switch between French and English despite us barely knowing any French, simply because we met at the beginning of high school when everyone was learning French so it was just embedded into our conversations

  • I use code switching often in my work environment due to our multicultural demographics. Code switching is very common in South Africa. My mother tongue is Afrikaans. Amongst puritan Afrikaans people code switching is only acceptable in situations where other languages must be accommodated or the correct term is unknown, but when the conversation s between two native speakers, it is generally frowned upon to use other language terms when one exists in Afrikaans. These days, however, it is more common to use the foreign term if it is deemed to be more expressive, though it is more classy to use any language other than English. French, German, Italian, and Spanish are commonly used to show that one is well read, well traveled and very cosmopolitan.

  • In business situations in German-speaking countries,
    I frequently witness people using business clichés mid sentence e.g. “diese Umstände benötigen blue-sky thinking”. Or even worse: “wir müssen versuchen, unsere Synergies zu leveregen”.
    I am not pro-torture, but I think for users of expressions like these, waterboarding is perfectly justified.

  • As I improved my Spanish more and more, I automatically wanted to say spanish words when speaking English. I recognized that there is a mechanism in my brain that keeps those two languages apart to not confuse them. And I can train it!

  • I code-switch at home A LOT. I'm from Panama and it's pretty common here for people to have different and very diverse backgrounds, although not everyone maintains their mother tongue and relies on Panamanian Spanish instead. In my case, my first language is Portuguese (I'm also Brazilian), my second is English (passed down from the Panamanian side of the family, it originates from the Caribbean and American influence on Panama) and my third is Spanish; although I take the three as native languages because of my fluency and their use inside the family. I mainly speak Spanish with my family because we're in Panama and that's what we hear all day, and then follows a mixture of Portuguese and English given at unpredictable proportions. When I speak with family members, specially my mother, I can mix the three languages up to 5 or 6 times in a long sentence, mainly because I look for the appropriate colloquialisms in each language to express details. We don't even notice it and when people hear me talking on the phone and switching between the three, they find it confusing but interesting. I also learned French and handle it at a conversationally fluent level and although I used to mix other words when learning (specially Portuguese because of certain pronunciation similarities), now I help myself because of French's shared vocabulary with English. Hebrew on the other hand is a language that I started learning not too long ago because of recently discovered roots (my last name is a variation of a Hebrew name carried out in the extensive history of Panama's re-registration of civilians and so forth) and I find that Spanish and French have helped me with my pronunciation, whatever little I can speak I pronounce almost perfectly if not perfectly. Language diversity and code-switching are so fun to have present in daily life!

  • Very helpful. Thank you
    However, you handle code-switching and code-mixing as though they are the same. I have learned to understand what you call INTERSENTENTIONAL SWITCHING as code-swicting, while INTRA-SENTENTIONAL SWITCHING is taught as code-mixing. Please, how/why do you differ with these teachers? Thank you very much.

  • I live in switzerland and I speak Swiss German most of the time except in very formal situations in school or with people who seem to struggle with speaking Swiss German

  • English is my second language but sometimes I think it's my first even if my parents doensn't speak english becaus I almost never forget words in english but most of the time I forget words in my native language latvian so it isn't good that my parents tell me that I speak latvian

  • In Venezuela specially in the city I grew up there's a lot of chinese people. I used to go to the market and there you could see a great amount of shops owned by them. You could enter any of those shops and ask one of them how much something costed and sometimes they spoke chinese between them, like discussing the price for the article before telling you the price in spanish or something like that. It's a great place to learn and practice chinese, portuguese, italian and some arabic languages.

    On my school days I remember falling in love of a girl whose family were palestinians (she spoke really good spanish by the way) and her family was well adapted to our country, language and culture. They also runned a small shop in the city.

    Good ol' times.

  • I usually code-switch when I need a level of details I can't reach with the language I'm using. It can go from using quite common anglicisms in French (and in that case I have a very weird accent because I speak english well enough not to have a strong french accent, but I have a british accent that doesn't fit in french so I force a "neutral" one)
    … to actually use Esperanto idioms, like "alivorte" or " ’stas ke".

  • Portenglish, franenglish, italenglish, russenglish, polenglish, deutchenglish, gypsenglish, in europe and swahilienglish, chinesenglish, quechuaenglish, tamilenglish in the rest of the world is common in immigrants communities inside of Anglo-Saxon world! London, New York, Sydney, Toronto, Jo´burg, Tel Aviv, etc

  • In Malaysia, it is common to hear code switching among us, sometimes even up to 3 languages at the same time.. eg: Bahasa Malaysia-English-Chinese-Tamil/Hindi.. It is fascinating to listen to for those who are into sociolinguistics.

  • My sister and I are both bilingual.
    We usually speak in our native language, but when we have long conversations, we often speak English. Sometimes, I forget a word in one language, so I say it in the other one. Sometimes, I make a joke that only makes sense in one language, so I switch languages. There are other reasons, but I don't need to say them because Langfocus covered them all.

  • As a trilingual I do code switch a lot. The primary reason would have to be reaching for better vocabulary (i.e. more accurate to what I'm trying to say or as a substitute for native vocabulary I'm not familiar with). I do also use the phatic function for jokes and interjections but I feel like that's another consequence of reaching for better vocabulary (by and large I switch to English however after studying Japanese for some time now I do feel the urge to switch to Japanese sometimes for concepts that can't be expressed well in the other languages I know). There is also this weird phenomenon which happens every now and then where I involuntarily switch to my mother tongue for a couple of words, almost like a neuron misfiring. Overall I would say it's a balancing act between sounding coherent and leveraging the vast vocabulary that lies dormant in the other languages I'm familiar with. It also doesn't help that loan words from English are super common so sometimes it almost feels out of place not to code-switch.

  • There must be many couples such as my husband and I. I am Afrikaans speaking and my husband is English speaking. We code switch all the time – mostly in complete sentences. We speak English most if the time because he grew up in Durban – but his Afrikaans is very good considering. I grew up surrounded by English speakers but mom was a language teacher and taught us to keep our language pure. I avoid using slang. We find using Afrikaans very useful in certain situations eg. Hy: "Waar is die geld wat ons hierdie ou moet betaal?" Ek: "Kyk voor in die Bybel. " Hy: "Thanks, I got it !"

  • Hi…I´m a guy from Paraguay, a country located in the Heart of South America. As you might know, or maybe not, we are a bilingual country, we speak Guarani ( our native language) and Spanish ( We were a Spanish colony from 1524-1811) and code-switching is something very common in our society.

    This massive use of both languages has created a variation of the Guarani through the last 100 years, which we call Jopará ( Mix of Spanish and Guarani). Jopará is mostly spoken in Asunción ( In Guarani it´s Paraguay, [Y] it´s pronounced as Russian Ы… which is the capital. And, in Guarani the country is called Paraguái, just some extra data) and other big cities, meanwhile a more pure Guarani is spoken in smaller towns and by the Guaranis ( Native people from these lands).

    Guarani needs a big analysis of you since it´s the only Native American language that it´s widely spoken by a whole country. And also considering that this language survived after the 50% annihilation of the country in the Triple Alliance war, which Paraguay fought vs Brazil, Argentina and, Uruguay. So it´s an American language spoken mostly by Europeans descendants.

  • Native PT-BR speaker here, living in Mexico and working in English, also learning German… the code-switching gets intense at times. Good to know it's a real thing 🙂 Here at home we frequently switch into spanish or english, sometimes you construct into a sentence using idioms that only work in one of those languages, so you end up having to switch at some point for the sentence to make sense.

  • As a citizen in Hong Kong, we do code-switching very often. For me, as an example, having attended my middle and high schools which English was the major medium for teaching and learning, I had learnt most of the terms and phrases in English, rather than in Cantonese. As a result, we often do code-switching in order to express our words in a more convenient way.

  • I codeswitch when I see Cyrillic alphabet. Its really weird when I see something liкэ Тниs, my brain tries to read it as if it was really Cyrillic or Russian.

  • Man I'm from Pakistan and I hate when people code switch. In fact the moment they code switch it makes me lose all interest in them. I just came here to confirm if my hate is justified. Mostly people do it to sound superior here. As if they are so educated.

  • On Gibraltar they speak llanito: Pero por dios, you've crashed into my car! Sí, pero… What do you want me to do?! 😉

  • I am from Chile and I lived in Croatia for a while. There was another Chilean guy and we often said things like "let's go to pekarnica", or "I need to buy papuče" or things like that…
    I live in the Netherlands now and my roommate is Croatian/Serbian. We speak Croatian but we sometimes say things like "geldautomaat" (Dutch word for ATM) in the midst of Croatian sentences.
    I think the reason is that some things we understand as concepts more than something that could be translated into our native language. For example, Chilean bakeries are different from the ones in Croatia, so we called them "pekarnica" … that's my guess… Sometimes it's just easier, I guess

  • Matrix language is written vertically in green glowing text that has characters from all the languages in the world, no?

  • I live in Namibia and we often jump between English, German and Afrikaans all in the one sentence. We call it "Südwester Wellblech" (South-west corrugations [referring to the gravel roads that can throw you about a bit]}.
    This is commpn among speakers of these three languages, and can sometimes confuse visitors/tourists.

  • My dad usually code switches 3 languages. English tagalog and chinese (hokkien) for example," be careful, may 车(pronounced qia) sa likod mo.😂😂

  • My household spoke both German and English, so we would usually greet each other in German (particularly the Berlinerisch dialect), and if the conversation went in-depth we would switch to English, but now I am studying German so I can speak it at a more in-depth level with my family.

  • I enjoyed this thank you
    What type of code switching would it be I’d say If I’m injecting more information with less data ? For example the exchange of pretty much any English word for anything other then English like Arabic taradud in place of English Frequency

  • I'm from the US so I grew up speaking English, but I am also fluent in Spanish. I code-switch both consciously and unconsciously. When I do it consciously I'm usually trying to make a point even if the others around me can't understand what I said lol. Unconsciously usually comes in if I had just spoken one language and had to quickly switch into another for whatever reason, like if I'm talking to one of my fiends at college then all of a sudden I get a text from one of my Spanish speaking friends. Then the code-switching flies both in my speech and texts lol.

  • Although you already mentioned it, in movies and often in real life they just speak English to show that they are better in a way because they feel their language is inferior, they are usually former colonies. They grow up with that mentality. Although am sure its not everyone but usually the case, especially in India.

    Also their is no way people emphasize emotions in a language that is not there native language, ever heard people say when they are angry they quickly revert to their native language. Also English is not a very "expressive" language, there is so much that you cant quiet say as well as you can in other languages.

  • Thanks for your videos! A little notice from Russian native speaker, the correct phrase is “ я люблю куклы”, instead of “кукол” 😉

  • Sometimes, I might code-switch between Spanish and English, but I try not to do this. At times, I will struggle to think of the English word for something (usually a noun), but if I use a Spanish word, those listening almost never know Spanish, so it would only distance them from me. The other day, I was speaking with a multilingual person, and I couldn't think of the English for the Spanish adjective "trabajadores," so I used that word, since the listener was fluent in German, English, and Spanish. Those rare moments when this scenario occurs with me are perhaps more meaningful for the listeners since they understand both languages and probably sense that the code-switching, in such cases, makes the statement or point more expressive or meaningful. At least this is what I think about it. Maybe they think that I simply couldn't remember the English word in the moment.

  • It's interesting how code-switching is more common in countries like the Philippines and India, while in Brazil a native speaker of Portuguese code-switching to English without having been asked to do so beforehand is widely seen as utter snobbery, even though English has been a mandatory subject for decades now.

  • At my school we have french english and spanish classes at the same time and it’s so confusing like in english class I answer in french, in spanish class I answer in english and in french class I answer in spanish 🤐

  • I like you channel it gives some examples than other channels. I am hoping to see what is the difference between code switching and code coding

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