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.


Rishi said...

Checked yr blocked just randomly as the random Ideas (yr blog name) you have :)
Indeed a nice blog !!

Waise what do you do blog likhne ke alawa :) [Tried to Code Mix, but aint so good like you :) ]

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kasumi said...

I am loving this entire post. I used it as a reference to write my research paper, and I credited this site. I think it was EXTREMELY helpful!

Personally I despise this new trend where people write in Hindi with the English alphabet. There is no exact spelling translation because everyone speaks with different dialects.