Are you a code-switcher?

I am definitely a code switcher. I use Ponglish on a regular basis — mixture of Polish and English. I use it mostly when I speak with my friends who are also fluent in Polish and English. They are code switchers too. This made me think to explore the subject a bit more.

Code switching occurs when you use words or expressions from two or more languages in your linguistic repertoire in a single sentence or text.

Before the most recent catching up drinks with my girlfriends I decided to pay attention to our conversations and make a note of our code switching. I wanted to find out when do we code switch. Do we do it to express certain emotions or when we talk about certain subjects? Here are my conclusions:

>Code switching often takes place when we forget a word in our mother tongue. The idea of forgetting my mother tongue is quite worrying actually. The feeling of trying to say something in Polish but struggling to find a suitable word is the worst. I know this word exists. I just can’t remember it. Therefore I’m using an English equivalent.

>A lot of words or expressions are easier to pronounce and shorter in English. Let’s take something simple as ‘next week’. In Polish it’s ‘w przyszlym tygodniu’. Much longer. With that in mind code switching also exists in texting, email writing — all kinds of communication. Quicker to write ‘next week’ than ‘w przyszlym tygodniu’.

>Swearing occurs always in the mother tongue. Oh yes, women also swear. Some stories, expressions, statements or sentences just need to be emphasised with a swear word. For some reason swearing in the language that is not your mother language is just not the same.

>Telling someone off. As per swearing!

>When we talk about something (experience, situation) that entirely happened in UK we would normally use English. For me for example it’s difficult to talk about my job in Polish. There are just certain words, expression that are not that easy to translate.

>Even though our sentences are a mixture of Polish and English words, they are grammatically correct. Code switching follows grammatical rules.

I’m raising my son as bilingual where I only speak Polish to him and his dad — English. As he is being raised with two languages, I’m pretty sure he will be code switching with me when he is older.

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