Barriers to Effective Communication


In this article, we will be looking at the barriers to effective communication and also Code-Mixing and Code-Switching in communication. Read the article carefully for a more clear understanding on all barriers to effective communication. See also Essentials and Forms of Communications

Barriers to Effective Communication

Barriers are factors that affect communication negatively. When we talk of barriers, we mean the obstacles, hindrances and factors that interfere with

Having already discussed the phonological, semantic and syntactic levels of interference in communication, we would make other additions like psychological factor, physiological or biological, physical factor as well as social factor.

Psychological Factor

The state of one’s mind ‘can affect communication negatively. If one is broken-hearted as  a result of the death of a loved one, or has lost a huge amount of money you discover that there is no way the person will  be  in  the  right frame of  mind  for communication to take place effectively. Anything that affects the mind will be a stumbling block to communication. We must be in the right frame of mind  if we must communicate effectively.

Physiological or Biological Factor

The sick state of an individual can pose a hindrance to communication. If one is unconscious or in coma, communication will be affected. Biological matters such as blindness, deafness or dumbness also pose problems to the flow of communication.

Physical Factor

This is the kind of disturbance that comes from the environment. It can come in the form of noise from the next room, the sound of typewriters in the Office, heavy rain accompanied by thunder Ioud music from public address systems, smoke within the environment. a terrible odour and so on can affect communication negatively.  The individuals in this type of environment will not enjoy good communication with so much noise going on in the environment.

Social Factor

Class consciousness can affect communication negatively. Most people are conscious of their wealth, education, fame and popularity and believe in communicating only with the people belonging to their class or level anybody who finds himself/herself in the midst of such group of people without measuring to  their level of wealth, fame etc will  be ignored and look down on as communication goes on. Even if the person has positive to add to the topic of discussion, his or her point of view will be  ignored. This can affect communication as the person or persons looked down on will no longer be in the right mood to continue the discussion.


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During the communication process, speakers who find themselves comfortable with two languages, exhibit a certain behaviour. That is, when speaking, the speaker may decide to change from one language to the other. The speaker may also be mixing, intentionally, items from the two languages during the stretch of speech. These two situations described above are called code-mixing and code-switching.

Code mixing

This results from a situation whereby a speaker mixes is from two distinct languages in the course of a speech act. In this situation, the speaker can begin to speak in English Language and then switches over to the  mother  tongue. That is moving from L2 to L1. In code mixing, the speaker usually switches back to the L2 before ending his speech.

Example      do you know na idi very stupid = English – Igbo – English


This is a speech behaviour in which a speaker employs different language codes within a single speech activity. In this process, the speaker begins his speech in one language and ends it in another. The first language choice could be the speaker’s LI while the second is the L2 or the other way round.


meka just left ke fa    =       English with Igbo

0 jere school                =       Igbo with English

Before code-mixing or code-switching can take place, the speaker or communicator must be bilingual  or even multi-lingual i.e must be able to speak more than one language. A mono-lingual speaker cannot indulge in code-mixing or code-switching . also, they only exist in oral communication.

Causes of Code-Switching and Code-Mixing

The following are some of the causes of code-switching  and code-mixing:

  • Inability to express oneself very well in the English language.
  • To hide or conceal information from a third person.
  • The speaker/writer can decide to switch codes as a form of style.
  • The desire to give information in such a way or manner that it can be properly understood by those concerned.


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