To be honest, Code-switching is a new vocabulary to me. After I find out that Code- switching is the practice that people switch mode of speaking languages to adjust to different language variations in different contexts. I think code-switching is unconsciously being practiced by people surrounding us since globalization makes it more common for people coming from different background communicate, thus resulting in the switch between a primary and secondary language among people.

Code-switching reminds me of my own experience of me changing the way I talk when associated with a particular social group.

I was born in Guangdong province in China where local people speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin.  But what is tricky is my parents are Hakkanese who speak Hakka Chinese and have a separate identity that distinguishes them from the Cantonese people. This proves that spoken Chinese has numerous regional varieties, and most importantly, many of which are mutually unintelligible. My parents make strict rules that we speak Hakkanese at home. But when I  go outside with my friends, Cantonese become the language I use.  It was not until I read the article “Five Reasons why people Code-switching” that I realize Cantonese is actually, taking over Hakkanese, the language that lies in my lizard brain.  The article recalls me that when I get anxious and unsettling or I shout out as a cathartic release, I blurt out Cantonese rather than Hakkanese. Therefore, in the deep inside of myself, Cantonese would be the one that I tend to identify more with. Perhaps because I grew up here where people use Cantonese. To me, Hakka seems to be more distant, which is merely a concept of where my parents belong. It’s not that I am not acknowledging my parents and my own ancestry, but that when I consider myself bilingual, there must be one that transcend another to be your more recognized language.

I have been talking in Mandarin with my other Chinese friends at Emory since I arrive here. At the first place, it’s just a compulsion for me to insert some Cantonese slangs in Mandarin and most of the time, the listeners’ response were freezing for a while, with their jaws dropped. Now as time goes by, I’ve been accustomed to voluntarily alter some Cantonese slangs while I speak Mandarin so that people won’t get confused about what I said.

I haven’t realized how Code-switching is at play in my life until I encountered the term“Code-switching” in my class and attempted to comprehend its meaning .That human being is well adapted animal makes us be able to fit in various social group and find our own spot. Code-switching which serves as an adaptation, has reached every single corner of our life and keeps having influence on our life for the decades to come.


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