Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Code Mixing & Code Switching A Boon Or A Bane?

How many times have you felt that you are more comfortable in a certain language as compared to another? How many times have you used an English word to describe a certain thing, and you realized that that particular object does not have a word in your regional language, or more so you don't know whether that word exits or not? Well, I repeatedly code-switch using two or more languages. And at the same time I code mix all the time. Code is a language, a variety, or style of language.

Let me quote the definition of code switching and code mixing. Code-switching is a term in linguistics (the scientific study of natural language) referring to using more than one language or variety of language in a conversation. Bilinguals, who can speak at least two languages, have the ability to use elements of both languages when conversing with another bilingual.

Code-switching is the syntactically (syntax is the study of rules and principles to study the construction of sentences in natural languages)and phonologically (phonology is the use of sound to encode any spoken language) appropriate use of multiple varieties. Code-switching can occur between sentences (intersentential) or within a single sentence (intrasentential). On the other hand code-mixing is the use of two languages at the same time or rather change of language at the same time. Let me give you example of for both to make it more clearer.

Example of Code-switching:

Hey there how are you?
Am fine, long time no see, aur bolo kya haal chal?
Sab thik hai yaar, bas am a little busy these days.
Okay, how's your worklife?/
Cool yaar, sab thik hai, acha hai

If I need to translate it, it will read something like this.
Hey there, how are you?
Am fine, long time no see, so what's up?
Everything is fine, but am a little busy these days.
Okay, how's your work life?
Cool buddy, everything is fine.

Example of Code Mixing:

Yeh train ka time change ho gaya hai kya?

If you notice in this particular sentence there is mix of Hindi and English. And since it a single sentence it is an example of an intersentential code-mixing. The words used in Hindi are written in italics.

There are numerous examples that I can cite to explain this phenomenon. Code-mixing and code-switching may or may not be done intentionally. It depends on where and with whom are you interacting. Sometimes we use two different languages at the same time without realizing it. Sometimes we do it when we lack the particular vocabulary for a specific term or object. And sometimes we do it to show off that we know and can manage to talk fluently in two different languages. In advertisements, TV commercials, and day-to-day conversations we can get numerous examples of code-mixing. The growing use of English is making us to code-mix most of the time. In India, where every individual is bound to know at least two languages tend to code-mix and code-switch.

Code-switching depends a lot on how formal or informal you are with a certain person, whether it's appropriate to code-mix with a certain individual or not. Code-mixing has given rise to new languages like Hinglish (Hindi + English), Benglish (Bengali + English), Tanglish (Tamil + English) and so on. Let's look at some TV commercials where the growing use of Hinglish cannot be ignored. Hinglish is deliberately used to make these more catchy.

In an ad for a certain shampoo, Priyanka Chopra says:
C'mon girls, waqt hai shine karne ka!

Punch line for pepsi is:
Yehi hai right choice baby
Yeh dil maange more.

Coca Cola:
Thanda matlab coca cola.

Vicco Turmeric:
Vicco Turmeric, Nehi Cosmetic;
Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic Cream.

There are innumerable examples to cite. Radio jockeys and TV anchors deliberately mix English words with stream of Hindi sentence to sound more hep and funky. Hinglish has become the lingua franca for most of the upper class Indians, teenagers,and people across India. But somewhere in this process we are forgetting our language. There are certain words that cannot be replaced with any regional language. Certain words like train, TV, computer, mobile, and so on do not have similar words in any other Indian language. And even if they exist we do not use them today. Only time can predict whether code-mixing will prove useful or harmful in the near future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Idiot Box On The Verge Of Death?

Being a digital native (wikipedia describes a digital native as "a person who has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3.") I prefer to stay connected 24x7. And with internet I don't feel the need to buy an idiot box. Videos, movies, chatting, online booking, shopping, gaming, live news channels, and daily soaps too are all up there. Out of a population of 1.2 billion, and one of the largest English speaking countries, around 13.5 million people are internet subscribers. India's internet population is growing at a fast pace.

According to the survey conducted by IAMA (Internet and Mobile Association of India), there are around 45.3 million active internet users and 62.5 million claimed internet users as in September 2008. It is predicted that the number of internet users will go up to 80 million by year 2010. People have realized that internet usage cannot be restricted to just chatting, emailing, or gaming. On the contrary it has tremendous potential in the field of education, learning, sharing views and opinions through various media like blogging, and one can create a virtual self (avatar) in the cyber space.

The point is that when we can access so many things at one place, why the need for a television. I realized that eve since I got internet broadband connection; I stopped reading newspaper for daily news scoops. In the same way I sometimes yearned, if only I could watch some soaps instead of movies all the time. And I came across a site where the TV soaps are uploaded and I can jolly well view them anytime. I feel elated that internet has made our lives so much comfortable. I don't have to spend on too many durable goods to watch anything in particular.

However, there are few people who claim that radio is still a popular medium for listening to music, in the same way a laptop/desktop with internet connection can never replace a television. Out of 1.2 billion population 130 million people still read newspapers. I don't know nor can I claim that the death of the so called idiot box is nearing; only time will say what's in store. I may sound a little biased in my opinion, but as an active internet user I can say that though I may wish to own a television, I do not need it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Informal Learning

Informal learning is the learning that is unstructured, unorganized, spontaneous, and in some ways accidental. There may not be any specific objective for this kind of learning but at the end the learner gains knowledge about whatever s/he was skimming through. Informal learning can happen anywhere at work, while interacting with peers, or being a part of real time discussion.

As opposed to formal learning which is structured and follows a particular curriculum and which has a specific objective; informal learning does not follow any curriculum. Informal learning need not necessarily be work related. It can be anything, attitude, any kind of language, day-to-day experience, skills that mat or may not cater to your immediate need.

But as it is claimed that learner movitivation is central to any kind of learning, I believe learners who are highly motivated take up a lot of informal learning on their own. Because a lot of learning happens in an informal situation.

Jay Cross describes "Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route. The cyclist can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or help a fellow rider." Where as "formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. People new to the territory often ride the bus before hopping on the bike."

In an informal learning environment the learner feels that s/he has more control of what they want. The content is not pushed or thrust on them as opposed to formal learning sessions. It is also cheap and inexpensive as compared to the amount of money that is spent on formal learning.

Hence organizations should encourage learning that happens at the workplace, without compelling them to take up training sessions. Because a lot of learning happens in an informal environment.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Are Social Networking Sites Making Us Unsocial In Real Life?

Most of us are already using web 2.0 tools. One of the most famous and commonest of all is social networking sites and IM. Am writing this post since I came across an article that says-that the growing use of internet has made people of all ages and the gen y in particular unsocial in real life. But there are many points that need to be factored in before jumping to such conclusions. Let's see what these points are:

First of all I would partly agree that using too much of internet is making people of all ages unsocial to some extent. I have hardly seen anybody not using some IM while at their work place (if it’s not blocked). I assume that people feel more comfortable while exchanging info over chat or mail. But at times it becomes mandatory to talk either in person or over phone to clarify things and to avoid misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Most of the users believe that these sites help them manage and keep in touch with their friends, stay in touch with friends who are geographically apart, make new friends, find old friends and for business network as well. I feel networking online gives people and teenagers in particular a safe environment to interact. You have the choice of limiting access to your IM to a selected few. Companies make use of social networking to market their products. People get job opportunities via these sites. Some users believe that social networking not only provides friends both old and new but provides you with communities to share similar interest and also a sense of belongingness. They also provide a space which gives you the freedom to voice out opinion on various issues.

Well so much for social networking sites, but I guess I have digressed from the topic a bit. So I believe that online social networking is not turning people unsocial in real life rather it has helped to widen the business and social network of people across the world. It has made possible to connect and stay in touch with people who are geographically far apart.