Art & Life

Code-meshing – celebrating the ways we speak

Kirkwood Community College is fortunate to have a diverse student body. People from many different nations and cultures come here to further their education. 

Walking the halls or eating in the cafeteria, students may hear versions of the English language that are unfamiliar to them. The blend of cultural backgrounds, dialects and vernacular in everyday communication through speaking and writing is called code-meshing.

People in various cultures have learned to use different ways of speaking and writing based on the situation or environment they find themselves. An example would be using one language at home or with friends but utilizing the more formally taught Standard American English in classrooms. This process is called code switching, a form that has been evolving through the expanding acceptance of individuals’ language in all situations.

So what does code-meshing look like, and how does it differ from code-switching? It looks like someone speaking English punctuated with words from another language such as Spanish in conversation, sometimes called ‘Spanglish.’ It looks like an individual using their common vernacular from a region or neighborhood when writing an essay or delivering a speech or performance. 

The thought process behind code-meshing aims to change the perception that Standard American English is the only appropriate language to use in prose or speaking in public and academic spheres. It strives to recognize that all forms of English have value and are valid expressions of an individual’s culture and heritage within our common experience.

In this spirit, Kirkwood will be hosting a code meshing contest this semester. Forms include essays, prose, poetry, songs – anything that captures one’s unique voice. All Kirkwood students, including dual-enrolled, are eligible to participate. All submissions should be emailed to, by March 3 to be considered for the contest. 

Lisa Angelella, associate professor of English and Coordinator of the upcoming code meshing writing celebration, stated the contest “is a way for us to celebrate the diversity of languages that students bring to Kirkwood campus but might not always feel they can share in a piece of formal writing.”

For more information, see the code meshing fliers around campus and scan the QR code on them for a direct link which includes a video example and explanation of cash prizes. 

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