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Travel in the Philippines

Taglish and Code-Switching
By:Ande Geronimo

Experts define "code-switching" in different ways but with the same meaning. My favorite is from Heather Coffey's article called "Code-switching." The article captures everything about code-switching without the use of too many technical terms and what have you.

What is code-switching? Code-switching is, simply, your ability to switch from one language variety to the other depending on the context you are in. This isn't something new. As a matter of fact, you do this everyday, from the language you use when talking to your friends to the language you use when giving a lecture in a roomful of teenagers.

To be able to code-switch, there should be "codes" to switch. The "codes" can be two different languages or two language varieties (i.e., American English with Singapore English or English with Tagalog). As cited by Coffey, "Deric Greene and Felicia Walker maintain that '[Code-switching] can involve the alternation between two different languages, two tonal registers, or a dialectical shift within the same language such as Standard English and Black English.'"

Taglish (or Tagalog English), according to Wikipedia.org, is an example of code-switching. Ma. Lourdes Bautista, in her article "Why do we code-switch?" published online by the Manila Bulletin, defends this wikied claim. She says that there are some Tagalog words that do not have English equivalents, so Filipinos code-switch. She adds that Filipinos do two kinds of code-switching: deficiency-driven and proficiency-driven code-switchings.

Ms. Bautista's justification is sensible, and proficiency-driven Taglish code-switching is okay. You still can speak English and Tagalog fluently.

Deficiency-driven code-switching, on the other hand, is dangerous. Think about this: If a "deficiency-driven code-switcher" stops learning both codes for whatever reason and continues to speak Taglish, this code-switching may turn into a creole language or interlanguage, and thus defeats the purpose of bilingualism.

Does Chavacano ring a bell?

The idea is to be competent in both English and Tagalog. If we use Taglish for convenience, we have to make sure it's just for convenience. If we let our guard down, we have to be ready for disastrous results. First, the drop in English proficiency; next, the loss of identity.

Ande Geronimo, EFL Teacher Trainer: Your guide to online English teaching http://queerenglish.blogspot.com/.

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