My momma is a fluent code-switcher. Her ability to seamlessly code-switch from one mode to another confused my sisters and me and endlessly amused my father. “Why is Momma talking like that?” we would ask.
“The closer we get to Parsons, the more ‘countrified’ your momma gets,” he’d say with a gleeful chuckle, patting her affectionately on the knee. My momma grew up in a small farming community in Parsons, Tennessee, where the local dialect makes strong departures from the language of wider communication. Many middle and upper class outsiders would note these departures immediately, marking those who speak it as uneducated or low-class. In my normal circle of influence, I saw my momma speak the dialect of wider communication on a daily basis, but when she spoke with my granny she would code-switch to the country dialect. I now understand that she spoke in the way she did because it was the only way my granny would understand her and accept her. Because he did not know how to code-switch, my father always stuck out like a tea drinking pinky around my momma’s family. My momma had a brother that never used code-switching. He persisted in using the farming community dialect at all times, and as a result, he never had access to many of the opportunities that my mother was able to access. Perhaps if a teacher had taught him the techniques of code-switching, he would not have felt as though he had to abandon his identity as the son of a farmer in order to access a language of power. The basic premise behind use of code-switching is to respect and value every home language and dialect, helping students decipher the rules governing their home language and giving them access to the language of power. Every student can benefit from knowledge about code-switching and respect for the language of others. All English Language Arts teachers should be trained in methods employing use of code-switching...
References: Turner, K. H. (2009). Flipping the Switch: Code-switching from Text Speak to Standard English. English Journal, 98(5), 60-65. http://search.proquest.com/docview/237321019?accountid=14472
Wheeler, R.S. (2008). Code-Switching: Teaching Standard English in African American Classrooms. In C. Weaver, Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing, (pp. 235-257). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
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