Experience of code switching

I really enjoyed reading and watching all the materials about code switching in this class. And when I think about it, code switching exists in daily life, though I did not notice it before. People around me, and even myself, tend to use code switching frequently, no matter consciously or unconsciously.

For instance, my mom is always changing the tone and words while speaking to different people. She jokes and laughs when talking with my dad, but whenever I show up, she would suddenly return to the serious and strict mom. Because she tries her best to establish a rigorous (but caring) figure as a mother. And since she is somehow a little shy and not good at socializing, she chooses the most polite and official words with strangers. She speaks in a discreet and extremely polite (distant) way with total strangers, but once she gets to know them, she would act more like herself. (But what exactly is the true self? I guess even my mom herself can’t answer this question. People naturally possess or nurture various characters to use in certain circumstances, so that it’s really hard to define their personalities in simply several words.) My dad is like the opposite of my mom. According to his words, he used to be introvert until campus but became eloquent and social due to the work he does. I discovered that although my dad is humorous and even charismatic among his colleagues and acquaintances, he still turns quieter when he stays with us family, and his closest friends. At that time his words would change from the intelligent paragraphs and presentations into terse vocabularies and short responses.

I also code switch a lot, though only after this class did I realize that point. Generally speaking I am not the kind of person who goes on and on with strangers as if knowing them for so long. I usually talk politely and broadly when I first meet someone, keeping a distance and carefully decide which word to say. I feel anxious and uncomfortable when someone I just met mentions topics that are too personal or detailed. But once I find common interests and regard one as friend, I would be far more relaxed and more casual choosing the vocabularies. Many close friends of mine comment that I speak a lot and that I love joking and debating, while I actually avoid all of these with strangers. For me an ideal atmosphere of icebreaking conversations is harmonious, serene, and polite.

Another kind of code switching I experience is after arriving in the US. I am proud of my mother tongue and I enjoy chatting with my friends back home in Chinese. But I put efforts to avoid using Chinese in public here because it feels strange. And also I think it’s impolite to speak a language which people around me can’t understand. Because it seems that I am trying to hide something or backbite. So whenever I call my Chinese friends here, I would quickly run into a private space where no one could hear me and speak in Chinese. Sometime I would even change into English when someone passes by. And interestingly, my friends usually start talking in English with me whenever I do this. (After all basically all teenagers in China today could speak English…) And this code switching which accompanies mine always makes me laugh.





One thought on “Experience of code switching

  1. It is quite interesting for me to read your article. Your article ranges through your mom’s shift mode of talking to different people, your dad’s to your own following a skill terming “Code-switching”. Since I am an international student, I find it really funny that international students stick to using English to avoid discomfort, embarrassment and being isolated by not using their mother language so much in public. It’s undeniable that very often international students tend to speak English in bid to fit in and get more practice in English even though they are probably more comfortable with their first language. Your own experience of struggling between using English and Chinese sometimes unveil the language barriers that lie in front of international students. And the first narrative way of telling story makes it more tangible, concrete and authentic. All in all,I am impressed by your article.

    Liked by 1 person

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