Code Switching: An Unconscious Stimulus ( Revised )

Have you ever noticed a person talk in a particular tone and then suddenly change his entire body language along with his tone of speaking? Well, in my English class I learned that there actually is a term for that and it is called code switching. At first, the word “code-switching” seemed like a term used by computer science majors but it actually refers to a situation where a person changes his tone of speaking according to the situation he/she is put in. Sometimes, most people can see this as a “fake” act and conclude that someone who code-switches has a fake personality. People probably develop this notion because they have a set impression of a person’s personality and when they see a different side of their personality, they feel surprised and draw such conclusions.

In class, we were shown an episode of the show Key & Peele that gave us an insight on how people code switch. The episode shows us how Peele first talks to his wife in a courteous way about taking her to the movies for her birthday but as soon as Peele enters the scene saying, “Sup dawg?” to his friend on the phone, Key changes his tone and ends his conversation by saying “I’ll pick your ass up at 8”. The scene ends with Peele saying “Oh my god Kristin, I almost totally got mugged right now” in a rather scared tone. This scene makes me feel as if these two individuals were trying to show their superiority to each other in an attempt to fit in as two equals. The general public, after seeing this, would feel that the two were probably being fake in front of each other just to show dominance.

On the contrary, I feel that code switching is not always a fake act. Sometimes people just change their tone as an unconscious stimulus to the situation they are in. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that Key and Peele were unaware of what they were doing. I’m just expressing how most people do it unconsciously or with positive intentions. I can support my view through my own personal experiences and observations with code switching. I remember how back in high-school, our teacher used to maintain a very strict and grumpy behavior around us as opposed to the casual and joyful behavior in the staff room with the other teachers. This is a quite evident act of code switching but it doesn’t represent anything “fake” because she must have a professional demeanor towards us in order to maintain obedience. I am a Gemini and many people think of a Gemini as a multi-personality person. This is true because I have often noticed myself behaving differently with different people. I usually am anti-social around alien faces and will not be myself. However, with familiar people, I am my loud and weird self. I am energetic with people who party a lot and calm with people who just like to sit, chill, watch a movie or listen to good rock music. This was my way of unconsciously code-switching with different people even though my intentions are good.

Seeing this, I realized that the reason for my code switching is purely a desire to fit in with everyone. I even noticed myself code switching when I came to Emory University. When talking to students with a thick American accent, I tend to unconsciously stretch some words and convert my Indian accent into an American one and even talk with the same body language that they do. This does not happen when I’m speaking to my other Indian friends in English that evidently means that I code switch. This is a pure act of me trying to fit in and not a deliberate act to look like someone I’m not. Coming towards the end, I re-instate my point to make the general public open to the idea of how Code switching is not always a deliberate or a fake act and can sometimes just be an unconscious act of our brain.


One thought on “Code Switching: An Unconscious Stimulus ( Revised )

  1. Well done. I like the way you present an counter-argument to the idea that code-switching means being fake or insincere. I would like to have a clearer sense of audience, though. Who are you speaking to, and why are they interested in what you learned in English class?


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