Prof. Jessica Penner | D463 | Spring 2022

Discussion Question “Mother Tongue & Code Switching: Language and Community”

Think about language and the different ways you communicate or speak. Choose a word or phrase that you use with one group of people (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) that would not be understood by a different group of people in your life. What is the meaning of this word or phrase and how would you explain it to someone who is an outsider to the group who uses it?

Just hit “reply” and add your answer to this post!


  1. youcef007

    I use ASAP with my friend and then sometimes my parents asks me what’s that means

    • angellavaire

      Spanish is my first language and in my country (Honduras) we have words or phrases that are not completely understood by other spanish speakers, an example of this could be “Paja Ombe” this word doesn’t really have a translation to English but it basically means “you are kidding” or “you are lying.” I always use this word with friends but it is guaranteed that I have to explain it to people outside my group.

    • Omari Fuller

      One word I use commonly is “Yurrr” which is another way of saying hello to someone.

  2. shafinsikder

    I would say I sometimes use animate phrases with my friends that I wouldn’t be necessarily understood by other people. The word that I use is “Nani” which means what but you can use it in a variety of ways to express things with emotions.

  3. Daniel Vidal

    “Lit” is word I would use with my friends to refer to something as cool or awesome.

  4. Allen Luo

    I think growing up in New York City, you really develop a second language. This can be classified as slang. A word that I’ve used a lot despite leaving NYC for a decade and returning is the word brick. Brick means that it’s cold. I.E “It’s so brick out.”

  5. Sateen

    – Different englishes: simple, broken, & watered down. In speeches or when she’s speaking to her mother.
    – I think this piece would benefit people whose first language isn’t English or even they would be interested in this piece (people coming from china, the islands etc). I say this because many people struggle to get use to English, where they come from sometimes they don’t speak in full sentence’s.
    – This piece illustrates that Tan is trying her best to adapt to using proper English and not so much broken English. Although she was not from a place that their first language is English she’s still trying her best to adapt, and she’s not from here so she doesn’t want to put her sense into the English language.

  6. Ahmed shah

    1. She speaks 2 different types of English. She speaks broken English with her mother and she uses structured English with people whom her mom tells to speak to. She uses regular English with her friends.
    2. She feels like she has to use different English with different people because it shows that everyone has a different way to understand English so she cannot use same English either everyone.
    3. I think the audience is people who speak broken language and people who have parents who speak broken language.

  7. Chelsea Hernandez

    A word that I use with family and friends is “puchica” which is a word in Spanish that means damn or wow. It’s a way of expressing a reaction when someone is telling you something whether it’s something that’s going on in the moment or a story.

  8. shafinsikder

    I would say she speaks 2 different kinds of English one with her mother which is simple English and one with her husband which is mixed of simple and high level English.

  9. Behlul

    “he is afk” it is often used in games when people try to say the other player is not around. It means away from keyboard. You could still be in the game but not actually on your computer.

  10. Sateen

    Cap ; This means a lie – I would explain it to someone who is an outsider to the group by saying “everything you say is cap” basically meaning everything you say is a lie or stop capping (stop lying)

  11. Roland

    A phrase I use with close friends is “what are you getting excited for?” I believe the first time I heard it was in “Goodfellas.” You say this phrase to someone when they are getting mad or a little heated, you ask them, ” what are you getting excited for?”

  12. NicolasT

    As a Spanish speaking person certain words are used in certain cultures for different reasons. The word “torta” will always and has always meant sandwich, and this is because I am of have Mexican parents but since New York is very diverse with their occupants I have met many people with Hispanic backgrounds or heritages and have said to me that a “torta” is a cake which made me feel weird about what I have said in the past.

  13. Gundo Sillah

    A word and phrase I use a lot that not many know of is “beasting” I would say that person is beasting when they are doing the most or behaving in a way that is excessive and annoying to me.

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