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Mixing Languages (Code Switching) - Should I be concerned?

No, mixing languages is quite normal.

  •  Linguists prefer to use the expression code switching (code in this sense means linguistic or language code) because mixing languages is a little different from code switching.
    • Examples of mixing languages
      • Quoi c’est, ton maman’s nom?” (the words are French, but the syntax is English)
      • Mon préférée émission…” (the words are French, but the position of the adjective conforms to English syntax)
    • Examples of code switching
      • Papa, sing me une comptine” (the two segments are distinct, and they each respect the language in which they are expressed, but perhaps the child does not know how to say “chante-moi”, or how to say “a nursery rhyme” )
      • truck, maman?” (the two segments are distinct, and they each respect the language in which they are expressed, but perhaps the child does not know how to say “where”, or how to say “le camion”)
  • Code switching is a normal stage of bilingual development that will decrease with age, as the child begins to differentiate between the two sets of language-specific rules and enriches his/her vocabulary.
  • Keep in mind two important concepts: the vocabulary understood (receptive), and the vocabulary produced (expressive). Children understand more words that they can produce. At the age of two, a child understands at least 200 words. He must learn that “jus” and “juice” mean the same thing in different languages. The code switching “Juice, maman, juice” will result in “Du jus, maman, du jus” when the French equivalent of “juice” is acquired. Parents can help their child to eliminate this kind of code switching by enriching their vocabulary.
  • In adolescence and adulthood, code switching represents between 2 and 4% of language production (but God knows we give this an inversely proportional importance!). Code switching can be a sign of:
    • a rebellion against an authority (teacher who told a student: "Speak French!" and the student who answers "It's not nine o'clock yet, monsieur!");
    • a cultural affirmation (“Bonjour! My name is...”);
    • an announcement that we are bilingual (“Bonjour! My name is...”);
    • using a term in the other language to not interrupt the flow of the conversation (“Je ne suis pas prête and at the rate I’m going je vais être en retard”).
  • Mixing languages can be an opportunity for numerous play on words. Here are some examples:
    • Of great linguistic dexterity (Question: What does “Je m’en fiche” mean? Answer: “Je m’en poissonne!”);
    • “Look at this S car go”;
    • “My mother, my shovel – Ma mère m'appelle”;
    • Vaporisateur de laitue – Let us pray”. 

Trilingual children also do code switching when they are young, for the same reasons as bilingual children. Their trilingual code switching is rarer than their bilingual code switching. (source : Language Strategies for Bilingual Families, Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, p. 143-144)