Modern Day Arabic Code-Switching: Why Do People Code-Switch?

Dina Sarayra 8/4/2021
About Arabic language

What Is Code-Switching?

You may realize that you sometimes switch from language to language? or that Arabic speakers switch between Arabic dialect to Arabic dialect, right? Well, this is code-switching and it happens for a multiple of reasons. It just depends on the situation really. For example, when you talk to your coworkers, you sound more professional and measured.

But when you speak with your family or friends, your speech starts to sound more causal. This is an example of code switching and we can do it consciously and unconsciously. It’s a natural phenomenon that happens with people who are bilingual or multilingual. Especially if the person or people they’re talking to speak the same language as them.

Why Code-Switch When You Can Speak a Language Normally?

Now, let’s talk about why people do that. One of the reasons is because you may feel more comfortable talking about a topic in a certain language. You may learn it through that language and so can express yourself better using that language.

This can also be because that topic has a specific vocabulary. For example, you may be more comfortable talking about space in Arabic rather than English. Because it is in your Arabic vocabulary, and an Arabic native (that being said, you have a better Arabic dictionary in your head than an English one!).

That being said, we will continuously see people subconsciously switch to another language. Because they feel like they can express themselves better in it. Sometimes it’s the opposite. The person you’re talking to may learn a new language doesn’t have a wide vocabulary so you switch languages to make them further understand. It’s all about communication in the end!

More Reasons

Sometimes people code-switch because it relates more to their identity. Also, they want to show a certain identity to the people around him or her. This is because our language and identity are intertwined. People do this to either make an impression on people or to gain social status. So code switching is a psychological tool. This is because when someone uses a group’s dialect, accent or language, the audience is more receptive to the content. It also makes the person more likeable to that group since the way someone talks or their language is important to them.

So you can image politicians using this to their benefit -which they casually do- to increase likability, and it works! It sounds like calculated and disingenuous move. But sometimes people do it as a natural reaction since they are around different types of groups. However, sometimes people code-switch to seem different than the people around them which is to make a certain impression on them.

A Little More on This

This could be because they identify differently. They do not see themselves associated with the group they’re talking to. However, it’s common for Arabic speakers to change dialects while talking to another Arabic speaker. All that matters is communication in Arabic; in all the Arabic speaking countries in fact! Code switching between Arabic and English is also common.

Yet another reason people codeswitch is to sound more approachable or more authoritative. This usually happens when parents have multilingual kids. They want to communicate with them in a way that will give a certain impression. Sometimes people code-switch to hide in plain sight! Can you imagine being able to speak a language that not many people around you do? Well now you can talk about a lot with a friend or a family member without everyone around you understanding!

You’ve made it this far so you might as well check our website. Over there you will find everything you need to learn Arabic perfectly. Download our Kaleela app and find out more.