Does your mind ever feel torn in two? Maybe you’re in a language class and you begin to think in French and write in English, instead of the other way around. Maybe you’re having lunch with a friend and you’re grandparents call, so without notice you have to speak proper and use correct grammar. Code switching has tripped up many people, but I see it most often in cases of bilingual teens.
It affects me on a daily basis. Being from Brazil and speaking fluent Portuguese, I’m always switching up my Portuguese and English. Sometimes if I’m texting a friend from Brazil and hanging out with an American friend, I end up typing in English and saying things in Portuguese- it’s a mess. In the beginning my friends used to exchange weird looks and move on, but over time they began to understand this concept of code switching.
Occasionally I feel as if there is an internal struggle between Portuguese and English in my head, and other smaller languages trying to join in. As an example, my thought process while searching for food at the DUC works something like this: “Hm, wō shémne comer hoje… talvez la poulet avec mashed potatoes? Boa idea, depois eu volto and get a slice de la torta”. Wait, but thats not just Portuguese and English… whats up with that? Actually I also speak French and Spanish, and my Chinese is growing daily from Professor Li’s Chinese 101 class I’m taking this semester. Occasionally I feel as if there is a war going on in my mind, and my mouth is just spewing out whatever language is winning at that point.
Code switching sounds tiresome, but it certainly has its advantages. When traveling abroad, there is a sense of comfort in speaking many languages. It feels as if wherever I end up, there will be at least one other person who I’ll be able to communicate with. This past July I went skiing in Chile. I was at this resort where people from all over the world come to ski during this time of year, for it’s Summer at most other ski stations. This international potpourri I found there was amazing. During breakfast, we could find the table to our right speaking English, the one to our left speaking Chinese, our table speaking Portuguese, and all of the waiters speaking Spanish. I had great experiences meeting and speaking with people from all over. Unfortunately, my head was throbbing from all of these different languages after a whole day of walking around the station.
This phenomenon of code switching can be found to be either annoying or fantastic. It depends by which lens you look at it. I think it’s like a badge of honor that shows proficiency in many languages.