People Innovation Excellence

Why do People Code Switch?

Kita literally fine-fine aja kok, So please jangan ada lagi ya yang mengadu my statement and Kang Emil, which is no maksud untuk saling serang. Gimana kang @ridwankamil, bahasanya udah cukup Jaksel belum?” wrote Sandiaga in his Instagram account. That quote is one example of code-switching performed by a bilingual person. Sandiaga is an Indonesia businessman and politician. From his nationality it is clear that he is the native speaker of Indonesia, but why did he code switch when he talked to another Indonesia politician, Ridwan Kamil, in his IG account?

Sandiaga grew up in Indonesia, but he pursued his higher education degree in the USA. To this point, it is obvious that he is fluent in both Indonesian and English. One possible reason for code-switching is because of the speaker lack of language proficiency. Why do I think so? As an Indonesian, have you ever mixed the Indonesian language with English, such as “Aku belum download lagunya karena filenya nggak compatible sama handphoneku.” Why do we mix it? Well, it might be because we are not familiar with the Indonesian term of “download” which is “mengunduh” or we haven’t known yet how to say compatible in Indonesia. This is a real prove that even native speakers might experience difficulty in finding suitable terms in their own language and that is why they need to mix it with another language. In this case, code-switching is perceived as a communication strategy.

Another possible reason for code-switching, especially to a language that is considered more prestigious, is to sound cooler than other people in general. In Indonesia, people often code- switch to English. It is worth noting that in Indonesia English is still categorized as a foreign language. For this reason, only educated persons can speak and understand English, and therefore some Indonesian people might like to code-switch to English, either intentionally or not, to show their pride or to be seen as if they are more educated.

Back to Sandiaga’s case, I don’t think he decided to code-switch because he is not proficient or trying to show off.  Everybody knows that he is a successful businessman and coming from a high-profile family. He does not need to show off his identity by mixing his language. Focussing on his last words “bahasanya udah cukup Jaksel belum? (Does my language sound Jaksel?)”, I suppose, he is trying to converge to the Jaksel (South Jakarta) young generation way of speak. The middle-upper class part of people living or working in South Jakarta often mix English and Indonesian in their daily conversation. Jokes of this code-switching trend have been circulating around social media and TV and not surprisingly Indonesian – English code-switching becomes pretty popular among millennials not only in Jakarta but also other big cities in Indonesia. Sandiaga is a politician who has tried to gain support for the Indonesian general election. He has participated in the 2017 Jakarta Gubernatorial election and the 2019 Indonesia General Election. Targeting the millennials is seen as one of the ways to win the election. Therefore, I supposed Sandiaga performed code-switching to build a new political image; a leader or politician who is dynamist and approachable, the characteristics that the millennials always wanted. What do you think?

Published at :
Written By
Candrika C. Sari, S.Pd., M.App. Ling
English Lecturer | BINUS Malang
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