Post on NPR’s Code Switch blog: “A Code-Switching Tour of L.A.’s Chinatown”

This photo is not from Los Angeles and thus did not make the cut.

I wrote a short post on multilingual signs in Los Angeles for NPR’s new Code Switch blog. I got to share some of my favorite photos from Migrantography (my favorites out of the ones I took, that is) and discuss the diversity of LA’s Chinatown community.

Note to linguists out there: I do understand that the photos don’t represent code-switching as linguists use the term. As lead blogger Gene Demby writes, the team at NPR adopted its own definition of the concept:

You’re looking at the launch of a new team covering race, ethnicity and culture at NPR. We decided to call this team Code Switch because much of what we’ll be exploring are the different spaces we each inhabit and the tensions of trying to navigate between them. In one sense, code-switching is about dialogue that spans cultures. It evokes the conversation we want to have here.

Linguists would probably quibble with our definition. (The term arose in linguistics specifically to refer to mixing languages and speech patterns in conversation.) But we’re looking at code-switching a little more broadly: many of us subtly, reflexively change the way we express ourselves all the time. We’re hop-scotching between different cultural and linguistic spaces and different parts of our own identities — sometimes within a single interaction.