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Code Switching and Its Reception Among Malaysians

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Communication is essential as a medium for people to express thoughts and ideas in order to be understood by others (Nurhezrin, 2017). People communicate and interact with each other through verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is the process of sending and receiving messages by spoken words while non-verbal communication includes non-spoken words such as gestures, facial expressions and many more. Effective communication is important in order for the message conveyed by the sender is understood by the receiver. Miscommunication or misunderstanding can occur if people are unable to communicate effectively.

According to Gardner-Cholros (2013), code-switching is the practice of alternating between two languages, dialects or registers of the same language which frequently occur in conversation than in writing (as cited in Shay, 2015). Code-switching is a norm in a country with diverse races, ethnicities and religions such as Malaysia. Malaysia consists of multilingual society in which code-switching phenomenon has an important impact among bilinguals in their daily conversations (Izyani, 2016). There are many factors which may influence people to code-switch. According to Jamshidi & Navehebrahim (2013), factors such as age, gender, proficiency levels and educational background of the person may influence one’s code selection (as cited in Susanto, 2016).

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Code-switching is commonly found in mass media as well. Many films, radio shows, advertisements and such use different languages to reach out to the audience. Some of famous Malaysian films that incorporate more than one language are Sepet, Ola Bola and Gol and Gincu.

Yasmin Ahmad was a famous Malaysian director, writer and scriptwriter who has produced movies that revolve around the cultural diversity that exists in Malaysia. Gubra is one of the movies produced by Yasmin Ahmad which was released on 2006. Known as a producer who incorporated various languages in her movies, Yasmin included three different languages which are used by the characters throughout the movie. The three languages are Malay, English and Cantonese which are frequently used by Malaysians on daily basis. The movie depicts on how different races and ethnicities in Malaysia use a variety of languages which are not necessarily entitled to their own races and ethnicities. This research focuses on the perceptions of Malaysians on cross-cultural code-switching that occur in a Malaysian movie, Gubra. Code-switching between two languages that are observed and studied from the movie are Bahasa Melayu and English. These languages are two languages that are used the most in the movie and in real life of Malaysians as well. A more detailed background of the movie is available in Chapter 3.

Ethnicity is closely related to culture of people in which it can be observed through language, religion, custom and heritage. Growing up, people are exposed to environment in which their ethnicities practice on daily basis. According to Nurhezrin (2017), people with various cultural background may have contrasting perceptions according to their own experiences and values.

In order to study the perceptions of Malaysians on cross-cultural code switching, three major ethnics in Malaysia are selected to participate in the research in which they are required to watch the movie, Gubra. The functions of code-switching between Bahasa Melayu and English are identified while the relationship between the characters’ culture and the languages used are observed. Based on the observation, the perceptions of Malaysians on cross-cultural code-switching are collected. Last but not least, the male and female perceptions are distinguished in order to observe the differences of the perceptions between the two genders. 

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