Cultural Identity Maintained Through Code-switching among Immigrant Generations in a Dominant English Country

The United States is often hailed as a country of immigrants, but in reality there are complex social and cultural factors which play a role in the U.S. immigrant experience, one of the greatest being language. While the U.S. has no official language, English is the predominant means of communication, and plays a large role in multi-generational communications of immigrant communities. Our research seeks to answer: how does code-switching between English and native languages influence identity formation and social interactions among different generations within immigrant communities? Through participant observation and interviews at Los Angeles Latino and Chinese American church communities, we found that first-generation immigrants code-switch more often in work and public environments, whereas second-generation immigrants code-switch for the sake of multi-generation communication. Overall, we demonstrate that through code-switching, immigrant families and subsequent generations struggle to balance assimilation into American culture and the ability to preserve their cultural identity.

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