Code-switching. How’s your Spanglish?
For many multilingual speakers, especially teenagers and young adults, combining two or more languages in a single sentence seems to be very common. They enjoy it. It’s part of who they are and it gives them an identity. This is called code-switching. But is code-switching good or bad? What do you think?
Many people will say that speaking Spanglish is an easy way out during a conversation because you don’t have to think hard enough. Other people say that it serves a very practical purpose as there are some words in English, or Spanish, that don’t have a translation, culturally. The second way of looking at it may be more accurate. Studies have shown that code-switching is a careful way of conveying ideas and thoughts.
Now, this can be true when both individuals are bilingual on the same languages, but what happens when one of them only speaks Spanish, like our parents or grandparents, or when they only speak English? I guess it all comes down to each specific situation. Speaking one or the other is also a sign of respect when there are people with you that don’t speak both languages.
My advice is for everyone to prepare themselves to carry a conversation entirely in Spanish or English, and to feel free to code-switch when they think it’s necessary depending on the context. You can keep up your language skills by developing a love for reading English, and certainly Spanish. This continuous practice will help you develop you vocabulary in both languages, which in turn will make you a more effective communicator in either one.
Your family at home will be grateful for your efforts in speaking Spanish. Spanish as a first language can allow us to express feelings and emotions that we cannot convey in another language, and it also allows our cultural traditions to take root and give us a stronger identity.
English should become your main means of communication outside the house, especially in your professional life. Being able to communicate clearly entirely in English is an asset in the professional world.
So it all comes down to using our judgment. The important point here is to keep growing linguistically and becoming critical thinkers, regardless of the language in which we do it. We should make sure we speak to people in the language they prefer when we communicate. At home, Hispanic families usually prefer Spanish, and I personally do too. In your professional life, English will probably be the one you use the most. But if Spanglish is part of who you are and as long as you are in the right context, don’t worry, code-switch away!
But what do you think? Is Spanglish justified or should we stick to one language or the other? We’d love to hear your thoughts!