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Code-switching and marketing: communicating to connect

The switch from one language to another within the same conversation is referred to as code-switching. The world of communication and marketing is built on establishing relationships through language. In linguistics, code-switching indicates the alternating use of two or more languages and is a strategy that depends on the situation and context. This year, two films highlighting this linguistic phenomenon have been nominated for “best film.” “Anatomy of a Fall” and “Past Lives” are both bilingual films in which characters continuously shift between different languages. Whether it’s Greta Lee moving from her native Korean to perfect English or Sandra Huller transitioning from hesitant French to fluent English. The films reflect the ever-growing reality of multilingual communication.

“Code-switching” as a strategic tool

According to a research conducted by Preply in January 2024, approximately 3.3 billion people are bilingual worldwide, this accounts for 43% of the population. These people become so accustomed to “code-switching” they may not even be cognizant of it. However this ability to instantly and effortlessly switch between languages can be a useful business tool. 

As stated by an article by Babbel+ “75% of people are more likely to buy items when they’re presented in the customer’s native language. Having people on your team who can easily switch back and forth between their native language and one that serves your company’s customers therefore can go a long way toward connecting with potential clients and closing sales.” 

Furthermore, companies are becoming more and more international, therefore a team which is able to communicate across language barriers is crucial to collaborate and engage with trends and business all around the world.

Communication and connection

In a paper published by Oxford University Press on the impact of code-switching on persuasion, the researchers prove that “code-switched slogans activate language-specific associations” toward that language. In other words the ability to switch to another language enables the speaker to not only superficially understand the other person. It, in fact, connect with them on a deeper level of understanding. In a heartbreaking moment from Past Lives, the American husband of Greta Lee’s Korean-born character perfectly depicts the importance of knowing one’s language in order to truly know the person when he tells her “you dream in a language that I can’t understand. It’s like there’s this whole place inside of you where I can’t go.”

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Patrick Fasolis

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