A popular trend among Hispanics in the United States, code switching, the interchanging from one language to another in speech (English Dictionary), is a significant indicator that that language influences cultures just as much as cultures are shaped by language. Code-switching is a growing cultural trend among immigrants living in the United States, especially within the Hispanic population.
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This trend has been around since the colonial period, as people began to settle in North America. The sale of Mexican property, now Southwest United States, where Spanish was the original language, is a significant contributor to the development of such trends. People who had previously known Spanish were forced to adjust to the English language. This tendency occurred world wide as people migrated to other locations (Stavans 1).
Although code switching is used in other Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain and Argentina, code-switching thrives more in the United States due to the growth of the Hispanic community in the past decades (Stavans 1). Also, it is more typical here since the population is in contact with both, English and Spanish, in a more constant manner. The prominence of code-switching in the United States is clearly seen by the expansion of ads, commercials, and entertainment that use code-switching to relate the consumer to the products.
Those that criticize the use of code-switching argue that it is not an appropriate use of either language because it is a type of slang. Some believe that using code-switching is a practice that could possibly affect the ability to use proper grammar in either of the languages. Sometimes people who use code-switching may have a hard time expressing themselves in the new language, English, so words are replaced in Spanish. In addition, code-switching is becoming far more ordinary in the Spanish-speaking community, creating a separation between Hispanics in the U.S. and those elsewhere around the globe Casanas 1).
People who have more practice with one of the two languages will often use code-switching when speaking in the language that they have less experience with. Since English is the primary language in the United States, it is quite common for bilingual people to use code-switching when they are trying to speak in Spanish because they may temporarily “forget” the word they are trying to say. This is usually because an individual’s vocabulary in Spanish is more associated with familiar language whereas; English is most commonly used for business-related situations (Casanas 1). However, studies mentioned by Casanas, have shown that the majority of code-switching users are highly developed in both of the languages. Also, code-switching is often used when an individual has a word that is commonly used in their daily life. So, even when a person knows how to say something in English and Spanish, that individual will use the word that is more present in their memory at that given (Casanas 1). Based on my observations, I have discovered that sometimes individuals use code-switching unconsciously as they are speaking to others. Still, bilingual people are able to distinguish if using code-switching is appropriate in the location and those surrounding them. A person who uses code-switching has a broad experience in both, English and Spanish, therefore, if the situation requires it, they are able to adapt to either language (Casanas 1). Although, from my experience, I have noticed that people whose first language is Spanish tend to code-switch more often than those who learned English first. This method of communication is also a great way for individuals to practice speaking in both of the languages; improving the use of English, society’s language, as they continue to practice their native tongue (Heredia and Brown 1).
It is a practice used by bilinguals to join both of their cultures in some way (Heredia and Brown 1). Since it is necessary to know both languages to speak code-switching, this procedure is used to unite the members of a specific social group. For Spanish-English speakers, code-switching is an additional way to feel a sense of belonging in society because it allows people to unite due to the languages they have in common (Lipski 1).
New lifestyles and languages throughout history have had an immense impact on today’s society. Yet, it is incredible how humans are able to adapt to a completely different environment, by combining new-found ideas with the previous lifestyle. Therefore, there is a keen correlation between the transformation of a culture and its language, as it occurred with the utilization of code-switching among Hispanics living in the United States.
English Dictionary – With Multi-Lingual Search. Web. 15 October 2009.
Stavans, Ilan. “ ‘Spanglish’ Mixes Spanish and English in the United States.” America:
Engaging the World. Web. 15 October 2009.
Casanas, Domingo Ivan. “Spanglish and Code Switching…” American Chronicle. Web. 15
Heredia, Roberto R. and Brown, Jeffrey M. “Code-Switching.” Code- Switching. Web. 15
Lipski, John M. “Language Mixing and Code Switching.” Varieties of Spanish in the United
States. Washington, D.C., 2008. Print. Varieties of Spanish in the
United States. Web.
15 October 2009.