Texting and Teens: Are They Losing Verbal Skills?
“2B oar knot 2B datz da ?” This famous sentence from Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been highlighted regularly as a line to distinguish between a love or hate for text talk.
This and Internet slang are new forms of language which are invading the world, and it is hotly debated whether standards of English are dropping and putting a generation of young people at risk of losing vital skills. Some suggest it is a harmless fad being used because of an already strong knowledge of English, others are claiming it is harmful to personal development. Here’s a brief overview of what text talk is, why you shouldn’t worry kids use it, and some classic novels to remind them of how great the written word can be.
There’s very little you can do to stop young people using this new form of English; it is trendy and already established as the natural way of interacting friends. The way this language is used it would seem all books could be altered into teenage friendly text talk/Internet slang to great success. This outcome would force many literary critics to point out Macbeth did not observe, “OMG iz diss a DAgur eye C b4 maself innit geez?” Book titles would also take a bizarre, alien twist. Girls who once took delight in Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s classic would now be left with “da Ckrut gardin”. What you can do is encourage your children to read as wide a variety of books as possible to keep their grammar and spelling up to standards.
So why has this become such a popular writing style? Some of the basics of text talk are to remove obstacles such as overly long words, to appear cool by placing numbers where words would normally be (such as “l8” or “m8”), to be rebellious and ditch grammar altogether (“know” becomes “no” etc.), or to be cute by adding smiley faces “;o)” or extra letters onto familiar words “heyy!”. It is clear from this there is a mixture of rebellion, peer pressure, laziness, and the need for speed when using this sort of language. Text talk has become such a part of English that exam boards in New Zealand and England recently allowed it to be used by students in their exams. Parents and teachers were outraged at this “dumbing down”, but it does make for an interesting attempt at writing. Try it yourself to see if you can grasp the latest craze:
“Discuss the behaviour of the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.”
“OMG wel da 1st fing iz dat da geez wiv da farm has 2 like toon in wid da thymes b4 sum1 getz urt innit coz like wot wiv da pigs n dat itz ded eezy 2 C dat da fing wiv dem iz dey iz ded n00tie innit :p but @ leest dey iz knot 2 bad 2 knot like fead da uvvers like sum1 hoo iz ded bad wud do innit LOL!!!!!”
Ultimately it is down to each parent to consider whether their child’s future is being damaged by text talk. For now it would appear to be an ongoing fad, and one which most teenagers can surely tell apart from normal English. However, younger children should be guided closely so they can understand the difference between “2” and “too”. There is no reason why they shouldn’t socialise with their friends in this style, but perhaps double check their homework/essays to make sure they can separate the two areas of their life!
The moral of this story is to read good, and varied, literature! It will get a student/pupil good grades, earn job interviews, and eventually secure employment. You can gift your child(ren) a head start by guiding them towards some of the very best young adult and children’s books available. Be diverse and enjoy literature! Here are some sparkling examples to ignite your enthusiasm for the written word in its proper form:
E.H. Gombrich – A Little History of the World – Published for the first time in English in 2005, this marvellous account of notable history moments is ideal reading for children and, frankly, all ages. Purchase the hardback edition for the excellent illustrations.
Terry Pratchett– The Nome Trilogy – Three wonderful chapter books about the small Nomes on a hunt to find a peaceful place to live. They cause complete mayhem on their journey in this charming mini-series. The trilogy of books are: Truckers (1989), Diggers (1990), and Wings (1990).
Brian Jacques – The Redwall Series – An action packed, exciting fantasy world of swashbuckling mice, rats, hares, ferrets and badger lords. This is a perfect chapter book series for boys who will adore these tales of fantasy and adventure.
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mocking Bird – A must for any teenager to read, this classic is a very amusing, charming tale of inequality. Still used as an educational tool, jump ahead of your class and read the book now!
George Orwell – Down and Out in Paris and London – Another for teenagers, this is an engaging read and one even the most moody of teenagers can enjoy!
Alex Morris works for Office Kitten in Manchester where he writes, researches and blogs about the business world. He can also be followed on Twitter.