Texting Troubles


The London Telegraph reports that some teachers and psychologists are worried that mobile text messaging is undermining literacy, noting that some students are beginning to use texting shorthand in place of standard English. If the kids were a little sharper, of course, they'd just label their essays "experimental" and start applying for grants.

Update: The BBC is way ahead of me. [Via Smart Mobs.]


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  1. Teachers and psychologists (in the US at least) don’t seem to mind misspellings and grammatical errors if it’s in the name of “self-esteem” or “self-actualization”, “ebonics” or whatever. What bullshit. This is only different because the kids are doing it themselves in class.

    yeah, it’s a problem, the schools are just intellectually dishonest about it.

  2. well, the government could get involved like in france or germany, or try to get involved, like in denmark and could try to change the language rules (like was done in germany) to account for this trend.

    that’s also intellectually dishonest. and an absurdly static way of managing a language. (l’ordinateur??? le fin du semaine?)

    but, Steve, i totally agree that proper/ standard english should be in the schools, and this “money english” (thanks KR for that term!) will lead to greater self-esteem in later life. as you know, self esteem and cultural bias are soon going to make “2+2” a relative term. “sure, your circle can have 643.78 degrees. good job”.

    plus, striving to overcome adversity is a good thing, and that’s where self-esteem is born. not from some notion inspried by pity.


  3. No mention of the fact that it takes longer to read it and write it, just less time to type it.

    Is this really a whole lot different from the telegraph days?

  4. Steve,

    As someone who spends his days cleaning up after the bullshit self-esteem-promoting tactics of high school English teachers, I tend to agree with you. The big problem is not that the kids use this code, but that teachers need to make sure the students understand that in this world they’ll be expected to communicate in different registers, and that using this sort of shorthand doesn’t free them from the obligation to write competently. (Gosh, sounds suspiciously like doing their jobs, doesn’t it?)

    Some of my students are already using this shorthand to help them write rough drafts. I’m all in favor of it, provided that they remember to replace the shorthand with standard English before they submit their paper to me.

  5. Err, make that “papers”. My own standard English could use some help today, too.

  6. This problem will be temporary, because ‘texting’ isn’t going to be a long term method of communication. It’s a band-aid solution to sending written messages on devices which are extremely poorly designed for the purpose. It’s a short term kind of tool that people will use till technology improves enough so that everyone can use those fancy type PDA-phones with full thumb keyboards instead of the num-pad for writing.

    The greater danger is that instant messaging, in all it’s forms, encourages sloppiness and speed of writing over proper spelling and editing. Whatever way you cut it, tools that make writing easier make people lazier writers.

  7. It’s tricky the way internet shorthand can creep into everyday thought. Shortly after I started using chat programs a lot in high school, I actually caught myself saying “LOL” instead of chuckling. I also have to resist the urge to draw smileys in hand-written notes. I guess it would be ok for an informal note to have them, but it just seems like something I shouldn’t start doing…

  8. heh, sometimes, when someone says something REALLY funny I actually say “ROFLMAO!” (pronounced “roffle-Mao!”), and dread the day I sing along with my party buds to “Revolution” singing “..but if you go carrying pictures of roflmao…”

  9. The language lives, and there’s nothing you school marms can do to stop it.

    I agree that children should be taught the King’s English in school. But, the emoticon isn’t going to bring an end to civilization }:^P)

  10. Maybe I’m just a couple years too old for this phenomenon, but I find reading this stuff–and WRITING it–to be extremely difficult. I DO use a few longstanding shortcuts in my personal emails (LOL, IFRC, etc.), but most of these newfangled “texting” shortcuts like “txt” or “str8” are based more on limited space than ease of use. So I think it’s more trendy than useful to use them in other media for these kids.

    And just to clarify, david f, the spelling reform in Germany had nothing to do with this; it was planned through the 80’s and finally began taking effect in German schools in 1996–too early to affect “texting”.

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