"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Code Switching?

As I’ve been reading and re-reading my interview notes, there is a direct quote I scribbled down and have been grappling with since.  To give some context, the interviewee was explaining her perception of the transition from our full agency name to the shortened acronym, emphasizing that she knew a specific population had some feelings about moving to the shortened name.  She then described what she does depending on who she is speaking to…she uses the acronym when speaking to current staff, family members, etc.-people she knows understands and are okay with it- but uses the full agency name with the others to keep them happy.  Since she changes her lexicon depending on the audience/social context my question is, can this be considered code switching if it’s only within one (English) language?  I’m thinking no but I haven’t been able to find other text/readings to confirm this.  Input welcome!

On a side note, here’s a fun NPR post about code switching and gravy


  1. Lyndsey, I'd say yes we can code switch within a single language. In fact in qualitative research, we often talk about code switching from factual (closed) survey questions to opened ended storytelling questions...I suppose your interviewee is code switching between Discourse communities, the way kids do when they step inside the classroom. The aspect of the code that is being switched might be the mother tongue, the tone, the formality of grammar, etc. So it doesn't just have to be switching from one formal language to another. Hope this helps!

  2. Thanks for the NPR link! I definitely agree that your interviewee was code switching. This isn't an exact parallel, but your posting reminded me of my recent experience helping my partner's sister sign up for health insurance (she lives in AZ and has never had health insurance). I had read through several plans before she finally asked, "what's a deductible?" I answered and from that point on I felt I should explain more terms because I had assumed she was "in the know." But later, when I started to explain a "co-pay," she abruptly cut me off and said "I know what a co-pay is!" Anyhow, it just made me think, how do we determine which code to use - that is, what is it that lead us to make assumptions about how particular people/audiences will interpret what we say?


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.