Photo by Ryan Brinkman | Photo Editing by Haley Hoidal
When Professor Roshawnda Derrick’s undergraduate linguistics instructor rolled in a TV and began to play MTV Tres in 2011, Derrick said she became enamored with the language and cultures. Now, Derrick, from Detroit, is an associate professor of Hispanic Studies at Seaver College.
During her time in college, Derrick had the opportunity to live in Spain and the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination with bilingual communities. Her area of research includes code-switching, when a speaker alternates between two or more languages or a variety of languages in the context of a single conversation — for example, “Spanglish,” the mix of English and Spanish — she said. In a monolingual context, code-switching can include changing a speaker’s language based on the conversational setting.
“We [multilingual speakers] get some negative attitudes from monolingual speakers because they don’t get the cultural and identity parts of what it is to be someone who speaks two languages,” Derrick said.
Derrick said this situation occurs when people feel discomfort in social situations where they do not speak the language being spoken. Yet Derrick said she is proud to see the shift in U.S. media regarding the mixing of Spanish and English linguistics — a time when it is celebrated rather than looked down upon under the connotation of “not knowing your native language well enough,” in a bilingual context.
“Magazines, films, social media, there are so many ways where code-switching has been exploding in the U.S., and it has been really encouraging and exciting to see it take form in so many different ways,” Derrick said. “It has been so beautiful to watch it grow, right in front of my own eyes.”
When someone uses bilingual code-switching, Derrick said this does not mean they don’t have solid abilities in either one of their languages or that they are speaking poorly of people behind their back — it is their space where they feel most comfortable, and this should be treated with respect.
“Why would someone who has that talent only limit themselves to just speaking in one language or the other to express their thoughts and feelings?” Derrick said.
Having the most culturally dynamic education, Derrick said, is the best way for college students to prepare for jobs, relationships and more.
“It is so important for you guys to be exposed to things you have to wrestle with —because then it will put you in a position in your vocation to be able to deal with the things that will pop up that you might not have even imagined,” Derrick said.
When deciding one’s identity and understanding the multitudes of ethnic backgrounds, Derrick said bilingualism is a direct decision to not choose one language over another — in all contexts.
“It is so much fun to be a part of a bilingual community and teach others about it and to see the diversity and inclusion that’s being shown in the American context,” Derrick said. “I hope this inspires more Pepperdine students.”
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