It appears today that an essential teenage fashion statement is the mobile phone and along with the mobile phone there is a new language which is being created right in our midst, and many of us may not be aware of it. Aided by the rise of social networking sites we are now in the middle of a revolution – and like all revolutions it started out with the best of intentions, but where it goes from here is problematic.
Because of the cost of mobile programmes it was considered important to get the messages across using the least amount of words or characters – a sort of mobile shorthand. This was acerbated by the rise of sites such as twitter which severely limits the number of characters allowed in a message – so to get maximum impact with minimum characters became the challenge.
Now, every generation has its own specific language that is used to separate them from the older generations. Who can forget the “Daddyo’s” of the 50’s films, or the overuse of the words “Cool Man”? In every case, as we grew older such language gradually fell out of use, and we found ourselves bewailing the impossibility of understanding the new generation of teenagers!
But this was spoken language, and as such usually had a limited life; in addition it often did not impinge too much upon the written word. Texting or SMS language is specifically a written language, and has the ability to translate itself into customary communication. We speak the same language, but we write it differently.
In fact, the use of Instant Messaging (IM) is becoming so wide spread that educators are now beginning to recognise the problems that it may cause and some interesting research is coming to light.
It is estimated that up to 74% of online teens use instant messaging and many of them will use it use it several times a week. The use of a completely new way of writing is growing.
At the moment, I would venture to say that that the main exposure to the written language would still be in books, online articles and blogs which use correct formal language; so that even though the new language has a toe-hold it hasn’t yet superseded the main stream – but given time, who knows?
I admire the ingenuity of the texters, but I do worry about the clarity of the message. Miscommunication is common with formal language where the possibility of misunderstandings are less; but with the new texting shorthand how easy is it to understand precisely what the writer wanted to say? LOL can be either “Lots of Love” or “Laughing out Loud” – a misunderstanding could be the end of a relationship!
There are also some real concerns that terminologies used in IM are now being found in school work. Homework essays are being received which are written in abbreviations more usually found on the internet or mobile phone. Increased exposure to the texting revolution increases the sense of common use. One teenage girl admitted “I was so used to reading what my friends wrote to me on Instant Messenger that I didn’t even realise that there was something wrong”
And while supporters of the IM language insist that there is a clear differentiation between it and formal language, this teenager admitted that she was having difficulty in separating her use of texting abbreviation from her use of formal language. In effect, the texting was becoming the normal form of communication.
Some educators now claim that they have to “un-teach Internet Speech”. The amount of researched information supporting this position indicates that constant use of IM is indeed affecting the way in which young people read the written language.
My concern is with clear communication, the ability to get your message across to the listeners or the readers, and convey the precise information without confusion. It is difficult enough with formal language, and many misunderstandings already occur – but I wonder where we are going if IM becomes mainstream.
Cn u c whr it wll nd?