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You Gotta Represent!!!: Codeswitching

You Gotta Represent!!!: Codeswitching

Switch it up!!!

In 2012, a video of President Barack Obama entering the locker room of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team went viral. In the clip, viewers can see that there’s a clear difference between how Obama greets a white assistant coach and how he greets NBA player, Kevin Durant:


Some people are not familiar with how to handle themselves in societal settings other than those they are used to. Introverts, extroverts, and everything in between, for fear of flopping in social and cultural situations, or to avoid intimidation or feeling out of place, may resort to putting up a facade to shield or veil their true self. This “talent” has its origins in language/linguistics studies but today has dispersed into several other social science disciplines of study – the quintessential codeswitch.

Some examples of code-switching include changing your language or dialect in order to assimilate into the predominant culture. This could include primarily speaking English if your first language is other than, or speaking Standard American English in another environment even though you commonly speak some type of slang or another dialect of English, or whatever language you speak at home or with family.

Code-switching can also be about altering your appearance to fit the norm of the environment you’re in. This could include clothing changes and/or hairstyles. 

From both experimental and correlational work, code-switching has its benefits in the workplace and academic settings where code-switching can give off a persona who is perceived as more professional or intellectual. More often than not, levels of cultural code-switching are performed subconsciously. Think about how you are when talking with your friends before a class, and then how that shifts once you are in the presence of a professor. Again, given that many people alter their behaviors in order to fit in, the ability to code-switch is actually a skill set—one that can be developed and mastered to the point where one does it almost automatically. The procedure usually requires that first, you have to read the situation or space you are entering, understand the audience, and then pick up on those cues quickly enough to demonstrate that you fit in, all while making it appear authentic. Exhausting, right?!

However, what happens when the true you is challenged by an environment that is dismissive of you, and overtly displays this attitude with resistance to your codeswitching? Do you maintain your facade or revert back to the “real” you? 

Studies show that code-switching has become a way of life for many people who have come to terms with the fact that it is the only way to gain acceptance in certain environments, and this can eventually take a toll on their health and wellbeing. Though the act of code-switching is not necessarily a negative thing, a closer look at its complexities shows that, when people feel obligated to code-switch in order to thrive in a particular environment, it can have serious consequences. 

As the world becomes more inclusive, diverse, and accepting, it is also important to provide a conducive environment where people can exist as their true selves — regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, culture, or ethnicity — and create safe spaces where people are respected for their personal abilities.

No one should fear being judged based on the way they communicate.




For this summary, let us think about our presentation of self in everyday life. Personal presentation is how you portray and present yourself to other people. It includes how you look, what you say, and what you do, and is all about marketing YOU, the brand that is YOU. What others see and hear from you will influence their opinion of you. Good personal presentation is therefore about always showing yourself in the best possible light. 

Watch the attached video, read the article, and thinking about the above passage, think about a scenario where you felt/feel that altering aspects of your true YOU was/is crucial in successfully engaging with a particular environment and the individuals that compose these surroundings (code-switching). 

  • Describe the scenario where the code-switching took place.
  • Describe the nature of the code-switch? For example,  was it based on language, religion, ethnicity, or sexuality? 
  • How did you assimilate and adjust to the environment?
  • Why or why not was it easy for you to code-switch?
  • Give an example of where you feel you need to code-switch often. 
  • Have you ever helped someone code-switch? What were your feelings regarding their character shift? 

Layout and Design: 

Writing 300 – 400 words, and complying fully with the following criteria makes for a successful assignment:

  • Typed in Times New Roman in a 12pt font
  • double-spaced
  • numbered pages
  • appropriate heading (name, class, date, professor’s name, topic)
  • a creative title (use your imagination and create a cool title)
  • use of literature and citations if applicable
  • your grade will reflect grammatical inaccuracies in your work.

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