Timothy Hyungjoo Lee/Larchmont Charter School 10th Grade
The Sapir Whorf hypothesis states that the structure of a language influences the ways in which its speakers conceptualize their world or otherwise affects their cognitive processes, as it proves that the language of an individual is heavily correlated to their identity. However, when one’s language is influenced to change by a new environment or setting, people are naturally inclined to adapt through their dialogue and tone. The practice of switching between registers is what is known as “code switching.” Gene Demby, a lead blogger for the NPR’s code switch team, refers to this inclination in his article “How Code Switching Explains the World”: “In one sense, code-switching is about dialogue that spans cultures. It evokes the conversation we want to have here.” Thus, individuals code switch to better accustom to their cultural and social surroundings through their linguistic abilities. However, despite all the social/cultural benefits that accompany code switching, this linguistic adaptation still has its consequences. Since language is highly associated with identity, the change in expression in result of the change in dialogue can result in the potential loss of identity and the inevitable loss of connection with communities.
“We discover a hidden reality and that reality is that the expectation of code switching threatens true diversity,” was said by Chandra Arthur, a Tedx speaker and an entrepreneur in the video, “The Cost of Code Switching.” The threatening of true diversity is well highlighted through Chandra Arthur’s story, as she was placed in a completely different environment at a young age. As a kid, Chandra would make efforts to code switch and become “culturally compatible” with her peers through dialogue and other cultural aspects. Eventually, Chandra Arthur began to dress, act, and think similarly to her peers at the new school, and Chandra’s long established personality has diminished due to the constant code switching between two differing environments. As language is correlated with identity, Chandra’s change in dialogue eventualized in the evanescence of her former traits. Code switching enables several distinctive personalities to come into role during the necessary and suitable moments, but if one identity becomes dominant and too prevalent, the separate personalities become subpersonalities. Although the act code switching may benefit in gaining popularity through change in identity, the consequence is also the alteration of one’s identity completely.
As a cost of code switching is the loss of personality/identity, there is a further consequence through code switching which is the loss of connection in communities. A community is usually compiled of people who share similar interests and beliefs, as a community can be any group of people that is very uniform in thoughts, personality, and even tradition. There is a heavy correlation between the loss of identity and the loss of connection in a community, as an individual with a different personality within a community will most likely lose connection. When a community’s beliefs and interests are challenged by one, the community tends to also exclude the outlier. A community may also feel betrayal when a former member of a community changes in a trait or personality. An example of this consequence is well illustrated in the novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian”, by Sherman Alexie. Junior, the main character of Sherman Alexie’s novel, is an Indian that made the decision to transfer to a white school, and many consequences are prevalent through the story. Junior eventually began to acquaint himself with the white people in the new school, and the members of Junior’s reservation began to hate Junior for “betraying them”. Code switching serves to adapt in an environment, but the social adaptations of two different environments may completely contrast with one another. Due to this, we often feel conflicted and feel like we don’t belong anywhere. The personality obtained from attending a completely culturally different school will definitely be distinctive to the one to its original community. In consequence of code switching, Junior became acquainted to different types of people, while being excluded from some groups. The shifting of alternate personalities may resonate within an individual, as it is one’s response to a different environment.
Many may argue that these consequences can be avoided if code switching is performed in the correct environment. Although that may be the case, code switching is usually a natural interactive response in a different environment. Individuals do not feel the need to code switch by intention, but rather individuals perform it intuitively when faced in a new condition. Therefore, by this rationale, we cannot avoid these consequences if our code switching is natural, as it is highly dependent on the different environment around us. Manipulating our change in personality may potentially avoid any casualties, but the natural response of our change within two different environments will most likely result in a consequence due to the differing environments. We code switch because our environments are contrasting, so it is most likely that the personalities generated through those surroundings are completely different. This is simply due to our instinct to adapt to our surrounding as code switching is essentially our natural response to maintain our need to fit in.
Code switching is, of course, more beneficial than it is harmful. It provides us cultural and linguistic security, and its adaptations allow us to fit in and be compatible with a community’s level. However, there is always a cost of code switching within new conditions and environments, and our linguistic adaptations are sometimes prevalent in the wrong environment. The individuals surrounding us are never the same; they all have a distinct personality and trait, and therefore code switching within those individuals will not always result in compatibility.
Timothy Hyungjoo Lee/Larchmont Charter School 10th Grade
<Timothy Hyungjoo Lee/Larchmont Charter School 10th Grad