Code Switching occurs when a person changes their dialects, language or accent. There are several reasons why people prefer to code switch. It may be that they want to express their cultural identity. It may also be done to accommodate other speakers while there are those who do want to accommodate other speakers. In a situation where there are multiple languages being spoken, a bilingual person has to make a choice about which language she or he will speak.
It is polite to use a language that accommodates everyone. However there are certain times where the subject matter is sensitive and there is high threat, the bilingual speaker may choose a language that excludes others from participating and contributing to the conversation. There are also those who practice code switching in order to express shared identity. Among the African Americans when they distinguish between Black and White women by using the term girl, they express their solidarity with their ethnic or cultural community.
In Belgium, code switching has political aspects. It is a contest to ascertain which individual practiced code switching and who did not. Code switching practices have led countries to declare the official languages in a country in order to promote the assimilation of the people in the country.
There are countries that have multiple official languages such as Canada which uses English and French while New Mexico is English and Spanish. The leaders of a country may desire to drive the people to assimilate into the national culture. There are those countries which use certain minority languages as they do want the use of the language to die. The
Swahili in Kenya and Irish in Ireland are good examples of the protected minority languages.
The Power in the use of labels
In life, we generally use certain labels to describe other people. There is power in the use of labels since it can either distance the speaker and the listener or it can bring them closer. The people in a position of authority such as politicians or church cleric have a significant effect in the community when they use prejudicial labels in their speeches (Martin and Nakayama, 239). The public usually get concerned and it may lead to sharp criticism and even demonstrations
There are certain labels that are general such as male or female which show a sexual identity or Canadian or American which show a national identity. These labels do not generally invoke negative emotions in an individual. However, there are labels such as “white trash” and “redneck” which an individual uses not to communicate friendship or closeness but rather to exclude an individual and create hostile relationships.
Labels that are used this way, only separate people, causing them to wish people did not use labels. They could just be appreciated for being themselves. There are those labels which people from certain communities hate or dislike simply because they were given by leaders of a certain community who were in a superior state at a particular period in time.
The Spanish Americans have never identified themselves as Hispanics because it was a term that was given by the U.S government forty years ago. In a similar manner, Asians and even Asian Americans have never identified with the term oriental.
The indigenous people in America have rejected the term Native American as it was
also given by the Whites and prefer instead to be addressed as Indians or American Indians. As individuals we should be careful not to use labels in discriminative or prejudicial manner.
In language speaking, there is a big role played by translators. It is not feasible or practical to learn all the languages in the world. In the European Union, all languages are deemed important and are allowed for use in the meeting. The institution has therefore hired many people to work as translators. Translation refers to the process of producing a written document from a written or an oral source which is usually known as the source text. Translation however is not just about accuracy and equivalency and accuracy but the meaning.
There are languages that have a high flexibility in expression while others have a limited range of words so translation is really about the individual communicating the same meaning to the listeners. Due to cultural differences, translators have to be careful in their work so that they do not cause intercultural barriers.
An example is when translating street or slang Spanish into English. It is all about the meaning since street Spanish and classroom Spanish is not exactly the same. In other words, translation is not about accuracy or matching words but rather about negotiating cultures.
Translators can therefore be called culture brokers in order to avoid intercultural barriers in communication. It is therefore not sufficient for the translators to know two languages fluently but rather understanding the complex relationships in different cultures in order to act as a better negotiator or communicator. The traditional focus on linguistic equivalence is therefore out-dated and not appropriate.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis refers to the suggestion by Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Whorf that language should not be viewed only as an instrument to voice ideas but that it is a guide for the individual’s mental ideas. They had conducted a study in the 1930s and 1940s on Native American languages.
These views are similar to the position taken by the people who support the relativist position. It is believed that the structure of the language we speak actually influences our perceptions of reality, thoughts and even cultural components.
In the Navajo language, there is no use of the possessives such as his or her, it will be taken that that they have different perceptions when it comes to possession. In the English and Spanish languages, the present continuous verb form is used a lot while in the French language, the past tense is preferred. The hypothesis based on this observation would cause one to conclude that the French and the Spanish have different thought processes when it comes to action or movement.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has received a lot of attention as it has made socialists question whether we inhabit the same social reality. The hypothesis however is very simplistic on the connections between social realities and language and it would be better to view language the way the qualified relativist position views it.
The meanings of the words we use actually depend on several underlying cognitive concepts. All languages in the world have the capacity to communicate all the ideas, beliefs and even the desires of the speakers however an individual will choose what to say and how to communicate his thoughts and ideas.
The qualified relativist position allows more freedom and is broader than the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
The Significance of class identity
Class identity refers to the socio-economic class that a person belongs to. The people are grouped together in terms of the similar financial, occupation and even social status. It is a very important part of an individual’s personal identity. Depending on which class a person is in, it shows the culture that they have been exposed to when it comes to things such as art or even food.
The French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, studied the reactions and preferences to art and sports in people in different classes in the French society. He found out that the upper class prefer tennis while the middle class prefer soccer.
There is food considered as “rich folk food” such as lamb, caviar and goose. People find it hard to ask a question when it comes to issues of wealth however they will try examine someone by the food they eat and what they dress in to determine which social class they fall into. Others can even enquire on where someone went for their undergraduate studies.
Class identity is complex as one may not really understand what causes one to fall in a particular segment. What are the determinants? Is it financial wealth, educational and family background or even profession? Is it a combination of all these factors? Many people deny that social classes exist yet they do recognise people who are in a different social class from them.
In America, people generally believe in the American dream, if people work hard they will be able to improve their lives and move to a higher social class. They will be able to keep their families out of poverty.
Martin, Judith and Thomas Nakayama. Intercultural Communications in Context. 5th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill. 2010. Print.