An Open Letter to Anti-Code Switchers by Dana

An Open Letter to Anti-Code Switchers by Dana AndreevaDear VICE Magazine,This letter is a response to your decision to publish an article that refers to code switching  as a necessary evil written by Moses Monterroza on August 18th, 2017. Taking a predominantly negative stance on this phenomenon and referring to it as “losing  yourself, and you feel like you have to blend in this new predicament or situation” is absolutely saddening. As a leading media company that connects the global youth through an international network of digital channels, I feel that VICE has responsibility for the content published and presented  to young audiences around the world.I would like to believe that we are all multi-faceted people and that our identity cannot be simplified to the language we use. For that reason when reading articles from a cutting edge magazine and seeing that code switching was referred to as “really anything that you do to fit into the majority to be accepted”  is a complete fallacy. That is because we all have different aspects of our personality and identity and we share that in different manners with various people. It is only natural that we conduct ourselves differently in diverse situations. For example I would greet my co-worker with a handshake and my grandmother with a hug. Me not hugging my co-worker isn’t losing the affectionate side of myself, I am simply conducting myself in a professional setting and my language will follow. Code switching is not a mask we hide behind, it simply is a tool that allows us to maneuver between professional and personal conversations and interactions. Furthermore, code switching is an incredibly useful skill, one that we usually learn in classroom environments. Code switching allows students to communicate their opinions and at times fill in the blanks to get across their messages. Students also benefit from code switching as it helps them better their articulacy, spelling and reading skills. Later in a professional environment when interviewing for jobs we use this skills to conduct ourselves in a manner that would inform our future employers we would be a smart and hardworking employee. We would never speak to a potential employer the way we speak to our friends, and that is simply because we are displaying a different side to them. I am an ambitious, hardworking person that would like to have a career as a lawyer. During an interview to be more articulate I would code switch by taking on a more formal tone and register by not using colloquisams I would commonly use with my friends. As code switching isn’t so much about content as much as the style of language, I would still talk about the internship I took at a legal clinic in London however, I would take out fillers like ‘like’ to present a more professional persona. This is a prime example of why code switching is an important and advantageous skill that each one of us should develop.The article states, “Code switching allows us to put on a mask so as not to confuse people with our ‘otherness’ “, I found this quite disconcerting as language is only part of our identity. Furthermore, it certainly is not a peculiarity when we encounter people who speak different languages as according to the website Ling Fact, there are 6909 living languages in this day and age. Moreover, language is not the only factor of our identity,  it is just one small tile of the ever changing mosaic of our lives that we continually work on. Other factors can be our nationality, our upbringing, our values, the friends we surround ourselves with and the experiences we are immersed in. For this reason when Monterroza writing “I kind of got really tired. I remember I would go to work events, and maybe I would be speaking at a panel — and if I brought friends with me, I’d have to remind them that hey, as soon as I enter this space, you’ll be witnessing a whole new version of me.”  exasperates me as code  switching shouldn’t be perceived as burden that limits people to express themselves. Despite that, I understand that language and locations affect the way we speak and what we say as well. When my parents and I spoke Macedonian outside of Macedonia, the words were strung together tentatively, quick paced, like a secret language we resort to in a predominantly English speaking community. However, when we speak Macedonian in Macedonia, it is like hearing sounds of relief from someone who’s just came home from a long day. The words come out slower, relaxed, and filled with long pauses as if there is all the time in the world to talk. For this reason I understand the sense of tiredness that can be attributed to code switching. However, I fully appreciate that I am bilingual  and even though Macedonian is my mother tongue and I attribute a certain familiarity and ease when I speak it, I believe I express myself better in English. This is because I studied in English since grade one, for this reason I associate English with professionalism. Over the years as I have grown to celebrate my intersectional identities and my code (language) switching has become more deliberate. I am writing this from Macedonia, while sitting around the coffee table with my parents, grandparents, cousins and my absolutely diverse friends from the University of Amsterdam. I realize now how many different experiences are being conveyed through a multitude of different languages and dialects being spoken. Being surrounded by this, I find that code switching seems necessary and on the whole enriching. For this reason I feel that this magazine’s young and impressionable audience needs to be exposed to both sides of the argument on code switching and to do so VICE needs to offer a balanced array of articles. Articles that not only explore the challenges of code switching but also the benefits and opportunities it grants us all. Dana AndreevaStudent of Law and Psychology at the University of Amsterdam