Marcus Kracht and Udo Klein write,

“Multilingualism is not just the command of several languages. It does not simply consist in several relations between sounds and meanings. Or in the possession of several separate language faculties. Speakers tend to mix two or even more languages in their utterances. The switch between languages may occur even within a single sentence. This is the phenomenon of code-switching. Any community of bi- or multilingual speakers shows code-switching to a great extent” (314).

Linguistic code-switching (code-mixing or code-meshing work as well) occurs not only at the level of language, but also refers to alternation between varieties, dialects, sociolects, idiolects, or registers within the same communication event. It can even apply to appearance and body language.

While code-switching can be used to compensate for gaps in communicative competence in either an L1 or L2, it has the potential to be and frequently is a much more rhetorically rich practice than that. According to Grit Liebscher and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain,

“In interactional contexts, code-switching has been shown to serve both discourse-related functions, which organize conversation by contributing to the interactional meaning of a particular utterance, and participant-related functions, which are switches corresponding to the preferences of the individual who performs the switching or those of coparticipants in the conversation (Auer, 1984, 1998)” (235).

In other words, code-switching occurs as a negotiation between the perceived conventions of a particular communication event and the speaker’s agency. Many people use code-switching as a way to shape the perceptions of those around them, as well as a means for facilitating their engagement and affiliation with or participation in multiple sociocultural or sociolinguistic groups.


Arthur, Chandra. “The Cost of Code Switching | Chandra Arthur | TEDxOrlando” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 22 Aug. 2017,

Duggins, Katelyn. “To Code Switch or Not to Code Switch? That is the Question. | Katelynn Duggins | TEDxMaysHighSchool.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 09 Feb. 2018.

Okantah, Ile-Ife. “Code Switching | Ile-Ife Okantah | TEDxKentState.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 21 Aug. 2018.

Wallace III, Harold. “Everyday Struggle: Switching Codes for Survival | Harold Wallace III | TEDxPittsburgStateUniversity.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 06 Apr. 2018.


In traditional language classrooms, monolingualism is often a norm. Some would say it is a norm by necessity. One belief (among other factors) is that keeping communication in the target language will encourage students to use what they know and find out what they do not know to communicate effectively. Some argue, however, that creating an environment in which code-switching is allowed and even encouraged may be a healthy pedagogical principle. Liebscher and Dailey-O’Cain state, “One possible interpretation of this challenge is to conceptualize code-switching as a resource for L2 acquisition and to identify and formulate pedagogically meaningful uses of the L1 to foster L2 acquisition” (235). Some teachers may be uncomfortable allowing code-switching solely because they cannot monitor student output if the teacher does not understand the L1. On the other hand, allowing students to use their mother tongue alongside the target language in a classroom may result in a lower-anxiety language-learning environment in the present and more culturally, linguistically, and rhetorically sensitive communicators in the future.


Kracht, Marcus, and Udo Klein. “The Grammar of Code Switching.” Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, vol. 23, no. 3, 2014, pp. 313–329. JSTOR,

Liebscher, Grit, and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain. “Learner Code-Switching in the Content-Based Foreign Language Classroom.” The Modern Language Journal, vol. 89, no. 2, 2005, pp. 234–247. JSTOR,