Code-Switching and Code-Mixing – What You Need to Know

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Offline Anta

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Code-Switching and Code-Mixing – What You Need to Know
« on: June 01, 2021, 01:42:07 PM »
Code-Switching and Code-Mixing – What You Need to Know

We know that Code-Switching and Code-Mixing are TYPICAL processes for those who speak more than one language or more than one dialect. They are powerful strategies that require metalinguistic skills and are NOT indicative of language impairment. Often, speakers who use two languages together are described as “confused” or “they don’t know either language well.” That simply isn’t the case. Let’s take a look at the research.


Alternating between two or more languages or language varieties/dialects in the context of a single conversation. Using elements of more than one language when conversing in a manner that is consistent with the syntax, morphology, and phonology of each language or dialect.


Truth be told, many people use the terms Code-Switching and Code-Mixing interchangeably. Some linguists, however, make a distinction in which Code Mixing refers to the hybridization of two languages (e.g. parkear, which uses an English root word and Spanish morphology) and Code-Switching refers to the movement from one language to another.

Many pairs of languages have a hybrid name. Some languages hybridized with English include Spanglish for Spanish, Hindlish for Hindi, and Frenglish for French.

Code meshing is an instructional approach that invites multiple languages and language varieties within the classroom.

The idea behind this approach is that students who speak other languages and language varieties  should be encouraged to share those in the classroom and not be made to feel that their home language or dialect is any less valuable than any other dialect or language. Classrooms that accept only the dominant forms of English as “correct” and “appropriate” can discourage students from diverse backgrounds from participating. Dr. Brandy Gatlin-Nash introduced us to the term Code-Meshing at the Bilinguistics-SLP Impact Virtual Conference on Building Equity for Diverse Learners in Special Education. She discussed the importance of encouraging students to use their home dialects in their classroom writings and then using the students’ work to teach them to be bidialectal. It allows students to reveal and express their perspectives in a personal way. Through the use of code-meshing, teachers are enabled to respect the diversity of the students in their classrooms.

What is an example of code mixing?

For more on code-meshing, see Mesh It, Y’all:  Promoting Code-Meshing Through Writing Center Workshops and Creating Conversation:  Code-Meshing as a Rhetorical Choice.

Translanguaging is is another term occasional used to describe the use of two languages.

A few years ago I was asked by a school district SLP what the deal is with this new term “translanguaging.” She said, “I just don’t see how this is any different than code-switching and code-mixing.”

So, what exactly is translanguaging? Well, when a child uses translanguaging, he or she uses any and all of his language knowledge, structures, etcetera, to communicate. So when we use a dual-language approach in our assessments, we are allowing for translanguaging. Or, more easily stated, we let kids use both (or all) of their languages/language varieties to accomplish tasks.

Francois Grosjean explains translanguaging
I read a blog post by Francois Grosjean, (you know, the guy who shared with us in the 80s that a bilingual is not two monolinguals in one), who says that translanguaging is the same behavior as “interacting with other bilinguals, changing language base freely, translating whenever needed, and intermingling one’s languages in the form of codeswitching and borrowing.”  He interviewed one of the term’s most visible proponents, Ofelia Garcia, and asked her what the difference is, and what the benefit is in replacing the terms.  She stated that it may look the same from the outside but the difference is that those earlier terms are an external views of language while “translanguaging takes the internal perspective of speakers whose own mental grammar has been developed in social interaction with others.”  In a nutshell, it is allowing the use of any language content and construction for expression.

Anta Afsana
Department of English
Daffodil International University
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Contact number: 07134195331