Code Switching

While many people have weighed in about “Code switching,” I think it’s important to think about it in terms of student writing. I’m Native American, and I’m also Appalachian. These identities are quite different from each other. While we all have different parts of our identities that make it difficult to reconcile, (I’m sure you feel the same) it’s important to remember that we can write effectively while not losing ourselves at the same time.

Code switching is defined from the dictionary as, “the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of conversation.” We can probably all relate to this. In English 101 you must learn to, “apply Standard English usage and have the ability to proofread for surface features such as syntax, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and textual formatting.” I think it’s important to remember that sometimes we don’t all define “Standard English” in the same ways. While we are all writers of some variety (tweets and Facebook posts count too), we must remember that writing is a collaboration of our identities.

We all want our papers to be “perfect,” but we must also remember that we are made up of different identities. A good way to think about this is a paper bag. We can put gum, pens, journals, lipstick, even a golf ball in a paper bag, but at the end of the day, the paper bag is still holding all of those items. We can think of identity in this way. We are all made up of different things inside a paper bag (meaning ourselves), and what we must take away from this is that it might change the way we write and speak.

As writers, it’s important to remember audience. You must be aware of your audience and their identity. If you’re writing for an American audience, you must be aware of cultural norms. If I were writing for a Native American audience, I would have to be aware of cultural norms as well. It’s important to not lose our identity when writing, but to also consider these audiences as people that we want to have a conversation with. While we are all constantly code switching to perform for an audience, from a conversation in the hallway-to having lunch with our friends-to tweeting-to writing academically-we must all be aware of our audience and cater to them.

Writing effectively is not just staying true to yourself and your identity but knowing others’ identities as well and recognizing that we might not all be the same, but we all code switch in different genres of writing and interacting.



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