Code-Switching Between Mandarin Chinese and English: Do You Use “lol” or “xswl”?

Wenqian Guo, Sum Yi Li, Yichen Lyu, Sok Kwan Wong, Yingge Zhou

Code-switching has become increasingly common as globalization allows international exchanges across cultures to take place more frequently. And as studying abroad becomes more accessible to students around the world, more speech communities with distinctive code-switching patterns are being formed. As we pondered the topic for our research project, we looked around and realized that not only are the majority of our group members native Mandarin speakers studying in the US, but collectively we also belong to this wider speech community that tends to code-switch between Mandarin and English. We could not help but wonder — do local students in China talk like us at all? And is there a reasoning behind the way we talk? It is these questions that formed the basis of our research.

For the project, we narrowed down our research to focus on just Internet slang used on WeChat, China’s answer to WhatsApp. Through our proprietary survey and by combing through chat history we collected from our participants, we discovered some very interesting findings. Continue reading to find out how and why Mandarin-speaking international students in the US code switch on WeChat.

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