Recognizing Code Switching as Valid Communication

“I ain’t mad atcha” or “I am not angry with you.” Which should you say? Well, we’re teachers. Our quick response: “The latter.” Grammar and usage are typical components of speech rubrics— topics students need to think about as part of building a spoken presentation. But that doesn’t mean it’s always correct to choose “proper” grammatical constructions. The correct response to the question above is actually another question altogether: “Who is the audience?”


In Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking, I encouraged recognition of “codeswitching.” I use the phrase to mean specifically switching between dialects or styles of speech. Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of education and African American studies at Columbia University, explains that code-switching is a way “to provide some kind of either social distance or social proximity to the people with whom you’re speaking” (National Public Radio, 2010, January 13). He spoke on an NPR show in reaction to Senator Harry Reid’s comment about Barack Obama speaking, in Reid’s poorly chosen words, “Negro dialect” when then-candidate Obama was talking to primarily black audiences. Reid wondered why the president didn’t speak what might be called standard English or, in the language of Standard 6, “formal English.” Reid’s comments caused some upset, but they opened the door to an important discussion about communication.


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 Speaking in Many Ways
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Palmer, Erik (2016), Speaking in Many Ways, ASCD: Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking, Retrieved on 2016-02-25
Folksonomies: grammar literacy vocabulary