To mix, or not to mix, that is the question!

Looking through the blog post of my group mates, I found out that the most popular topics are mother tongue usage and mixture of languages. The blog posts: “‘Shala Kazakh’ and other obstacles for the pure language”, “Why does the status of Kazakh remain low?”, “Why don’t Kazakhs speak in Kazakh as the native language?”, “Use mother tongue or not…”, “Who are we in this country?” look at these issues from diverse angles. Some of the posts were addressed to the code-mixing/switching issue. I have read all the blog posts and have watched the video with code-mixing/switching. Then, I decided to analyze the video, and find out what may cause code-mixing/switching.

The interview in the video was supposed to be in the Russian language. The theme of the interview was the opening of a new fashion shop. The shooting took place in Canada, the country that is considered to be multilingual and multinational/multicultural. The speaker had the Russian language as a native, but she moved to Canada many years ago, and the English language became dominant in the usage. By listening and transcribing the speaker’s speech, I found out that there was a case of code-mixing/code-switching between Russian and English, with a few elements of the Ukrainian language. This switching happened, as proposed by Poplack (2004), inter-sentential, intra-sentential, and extra-sentential. The lexical units represent the number of words in this speech. Totally, there are 344 words, out of this number 242 words were told by the speaker in Russian, 100 words in English, and only 2 repetitive words were in Ukrainian. After calculating the number of English and Ukrainian words appearing in the speech, it became distinct that the English language emerged almost at a half of the speech. Several points may influence this process.

First of all, the country, where the speaker lives, is mainly English/French speaking. Thus, she communicates in English everyday, and the English language is a part of her routine. While living there for too much time, she might forget a substantial amount of words in the Russian language. However, listening to her speech, it is obvious that the grammatical structure and sentence building in Russian are correct. In addition, as the speaker became connected with fashion in Canada, many of those words were taken in English, and she was adapted to use them in that language rather than in Russian or Ukrainian. Most of the words were dedicated to the topic of fashion and colors. Consequently, the speaker might not know the analogues of these words.

The increase in the usage of English all around the world may contribute to the next suggestion. For the Russian language speakers, English is believed to be prestigious, and the stereotype that the person, knowing English, is more educated, may occur. Comparing with the study of Yee Ho (2007), who conducted a research on the use of English in the Cantonese language, the same point is raised in the findings. “The use of English in Cantonese utterances delineates social stratification more clearly and divides those with good education, great prestige and high social status from those without” (Yee, W. & Ho, J., 2007). This point could be one of the influences to code-mix/switch as well.

To conclude, it could be suggested that code-mixing/switching which occurred in the interview might represent the speaking style of a person at the particular case (talking about fashion). Living too many years in an English speaking country, the lack of vocabulary may be one of the reasons to code-mix/switch, but there could be another reason for it. Code-mixing/switching could occur to show the side of an educated person, who really knows their job. However, there are many other reasons of code-mixing/switching. Do you code-mix/switch? If yes, what are the reasons?




Yee Ho, J. W. (2007).  Code-mixing: Linguistic form and socio-cultural meaning. The International Journal of Language, Society and Culture. 21 (1-8). Retrieved from

Poplack, S. (2004). “Code-Switching”. In U. Ammon, N. Dittmar, K.J. Mattheier and P. Trudgill. Sociolinguistics. An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society (2nd ed.). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 589–596.

4 thoughts on “To mix, or not to mix, that is the question!

  1. This post было просто fun to read. This is an important extension of the previous discussions we have had about code switching and language purity. (5/5)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi, Ayana and спасибо for this қызық post! Yes, of course, I code-mix and code-switch every day and I consider it very normal, especially for those people who speak more than 2 languages as I do. First of all, it is convenient. Don’t know the word in Kazakh? No problem: substitute it with the Russian translation. Does not the Russian version express all the meaning as the English version does? Oh, no problem! Go and include this cool English word in your speech. Why not? People are able to understand you – that’s enough. I mean, I’m not against purity in language, but when you know several languages you cannot help but mixing them. It’s like an art, or a game I’d say. But it’s fun! And second, I code-switch sometimes to surprise some people. Really))) For instance, I’m in a shop where shop assistants are native Kazakh speakers. Due to the fact that I don’t look like a Kazakh they think that I don’t know the Kazakh language either and talk to each other in Kazakh, telling some things about me. But then I suddenly switch to Kazakh and…. these faces! These expressions! How I love such moments)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear ayanairis, you are absolutely right that this topic is one of the most discussed ones. And it is becoming more substantial since we are trying to promote plurilingualism of individuals in multilingual society. I personally do code-switch, but mostly it happens when I am in a such kind of group of people who will understand me no matter what. But when it comes to purity of language I can easily communicate only in one when it is needed. The only pity thing for me is that I just don’t know analogues of some words in different languages, or I just have forgotten them, because of not using them, or because of dominating languages, or just because of using different languages in different domains, so that some words are just unfamiliar for me in a certain context. What is your opinion about this issue Is it a problem? or just a thing that we have to accept

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear @uaxi,

      I do code-mix/switch as well. I think that the size of this issue depends on the situation. If to take the example of the lady mentioned in the blog, there could be several reasons for code-mixing/switching. Other reasons were suggested by you. Different situations could be differently explained, and whether accepted or not. However, I do support this phenomenon only when the person is not enough proficient in a language, or do not know/forgot some words or terms. When it is made just to ‘show-up’, I absolutely do not support it, because such thinking could lead to the lost of a language purity.


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