Code Switching: Permission Granted

Jul 01, 2020

I do it. You probably do too.

It’s called “code switching” and it is a very important part of Accent and Pronunciation training.

Code switching is that process of adjusting the way we speak: Our accent, our pronunciation, our intonation, even our word choice, based on the speaking situation or based on our listener. 

I think we need to explain to our students that EVERYONE code switches. Some of us do it more consciously and some of us do it more unconsciously.

I was listening to Paul Meier’s incredible podcast, “In A Manner Of Speaking” this morning and he offered one of the best explanations that I have heard in quite a while.

Although he is talking about the ability of British people to code switch, this explanation is one that definitely applies to students who have worked with me to change the way they speak.

He says:

“I think, instinctively, a lot of Brits are able to code switch that way, depending on the present company, so they can present a different aspect of themselves…a different version of themselves or be more accommodating to the people they are speaking with.” -Paul Meier

I love this explanation!!!!

I love it because it gives our students permission to embrace their native accent but adapt and modify to use the American accent and pronunciation based on the situation.

I think my students need to hear that it is perfectly fine to use their native accent at home or in certain situations where it feels more comfortable, then switch to a more General American accent that might be more familiar to listeners in specific situations or when the need arises. 

Anyway, I highly recommend that you listen to Paul Meier’s podcast this month. You can hear him talk about code switching at the 17.40 minute mark or listen to the entire episode to get a great lesson on the differences between RP, Cockney, and the newly-evolving Estuary accent.

Full of incredible information that you can apply to teaching any accent or dialect. 

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