How code-switching acts as camouflage to feel familiar to certain people

Code-switching is when a speaker alternates between two or more accents or languages when engaging in different conversations.

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To discuss this phenomenon, Eusebius McKaiser facilitates a discussion with journalist and feminist activist Nolwazi Tusini, data analyst and columnist Fumbatha May and architect and lecturer Tuliza Sindi.

Being a Zulu person who grew up in Durban, I code-switch in Johannesburg depending on which space I am in. My Zulu sounds different.

Nolwazi Tusini, Journalist and feminist activist

She says she code-switches in black spaces more than she does in interracial spaces.

May says he code-switches all the time.

For as long as I can remember and initially I used code-switching as a matter of survival.

Fumbatha May, Data analyst and columnist

Sindi says she often code-switches because she is from the DRC, she is half Congolese, half Burundian and grew up in an Afrikaans township so she didn't learn any vernacular languages.

In a sense, my code-switching comes from body language and those particular nuances within language that is more reminiscent within black South Africans. Trying to find the balance between caricaturing it verses deeply admiring it.

Tuliza Sindi, Architect and lecturer

She says for her, code-switching is like a superpower which camouflages a person enough to feel familiar to a certain group of people.

Tusini says code-switching has been the way in which she uses language to navigate the world.

To make myself safer in certain spaces, to decrease my anxiety in other spaces and sometimes to yield the little bit of privilege I might have as the middle-class adjacent black woman in South Africa.

Nolwazi Tusini, Journalist and feminist activist

Listen below to the full conversation:


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