Code Switching in Language Acquisition Essay

Code Switching in Language Acquisition Essay

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Code Switching in Language Acquisition


The acquisition of English as a non-native language proves quite problematic for some individuals. Because English was developed using modifications and borrowed words from scores of fundamentally different languages, it would seem to be a language which most peoples of the world could easily acquire. There should always be something about the language and structure that reflects an individual’s native tongue – whether it be phonology, syntax, or semantics. However, the very fact that English incorporates an international lexicon with the respective varied syntactical applications makes English a fairly difficult language to acquire. Research by Cummins (1987) focuses on the length of time needed to acquire English. To achieve the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) level, a learner must study English from one to two years. However, to acquire the higher Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), it takes five to seven years.

In the acquisition of English, a normal linguistic behavior is the embedding of words or phrases from the native language into spoken English. This is called code switching. “Baker (1993) lists 10 purposes for code switches: (1) to emphasize a point, (2) because a word is unknown in one of the languages, (3) for ease and efficiency of expression, (4) as a repetition to clarify, (5) to express group identity and status and/or to be accepted by a group, (6) to quote someone, (7) to interject in a conversation, (8) to exclude someone, (9) to cross social or ethnic boundaries, and (10) to ease tension in a conversation” (Diaz-Rico & Weed, 2002). It is my opinion that the frequency of the use of code switching as well as the purposes for...


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...er the changing form of the English language over time. As new cultures and languages converged through the millennia to develop into the English with which we are familiar today, how much impact did code switching have on the eventual integration of words from other sources? How much time and how large a population of different languages would be needed to change a lexicon? In how short a time could such a change occur? The opportunity to ponder these questions might not have occurred without the benefit of having taken this course, History of the English Language.

Works Cited:

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49 (2), 222-251.

Diaz-Rico, L. T. & Weed, K. Z. (2002). The cross-cultural, language, and academic development handbook. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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