Is Code-Switching the same as Lack of Fluency?
Have you ever heard yourself or someone else switch between two languages while speaking? More than half of the world is considered to be bilingual, so you are bound to experience “code-switching” when speaking. What is it? Code-switching is defined as the concurrent use of more than one language in conversation, often within a single sentence or phrase.
Does this mean you cannot speak fluently in either language? Wrong! This is just a myth and studies have shown that people who are fluent in two or more languages are most likely to be able switch between languages. It is considered a verbal skill requiring a high degree of linguistic competence rather than a defect of having insufficient knowledge of or the other language.
Why do we do it?
1- One language may have better words over the other when you want to express a particular idea. For example, when you are having a conversation with a fellow bilingual (who speaks the same languages as you do) in your second language, you may at a point switch to your first language to use a better word to express your point.
2- Sometimes we code-switch simply because we may have the vocabulary of one language more readily available. This does not mean we don’t know the word in the other language. Also this can happen in situations where one language is preferred over the other, meaning that we use language in different aspects of our lives.
3- Sometimes when we code-switch we do so we can include or exclude someone from the conversation. The latter sounds mean, but it’s just something bilinguals are able to do! As a bilingual you must have done this or have it done to you.
So if you find yourself switching between languages in conversation don’t think of it as “bad”, give yourself a pat on the back because you are able to perform at a high degree of linguistic competence!