txt spk & The Written Word

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When we discussed the recent problem of students using txt spk in papers and other academic writing, I honestly didn't really believe it could happen very often. I assumed there were two possibilities; Minor errors, such as the example Jerz used in his blog about the same topic, he pointed out that they are uncommon and similar to other minor mistakes students make, such as leaving the apostrophe out of "it's" or putting an unnecessary one in "its." The second use of txt spk I could envision, is simply to screw with the teacher. Especially on small assignments, in classes that are a little too easy, it's usually kind of fun to mess with teachers (I would of course never do this....anymore.) I once answered all the essay questions on a short Middle School English assignment in Spanish, purely for my amusement (and bad Spanish at that.) It seemed rational that other students, well versed in the developing language of txt spk might do a similar thing to their teachers for similar reasons.

Realistically, I considered these the only two real instances in which anything, but proper English (or at least attempted proper English) would ever occur in academic writing. However, I recently had a brief conversation with a friend who is student teaching at the moment and says it happens quite a lot (and annoys her a great deal.) My brief discussion with her (as well as this being an assignment) spurred me to further research this phenomenon.

This banner came from a blog by Cat, who obviously opposes the use of text speak outside of actual text messages. The blog was just a few lines, and nothing new. I just wanted to borrow the banner, as it seemed appropriate for the topic. She or he had no idea where the banner came from, so there is no one I can credit.

I assumed the perceived problem of students using text speak would occur to a similar degree, at very least, in English speaking nations. A month old article by Daniel Boffy, of the Daily Mail, discusses a UK advertising campaign targeting children that used text speak in posters. The poster campaign consists of tips for safe internet use, with tips such as "nvr agree 2 mEt an on9 pal IRL w/o checking W a responsible XXX." If your unfamiliar with text speak, check out this translator (I tried it and it got everything except XXX, which according to the article means adult.) As the posters appear mostly in schools, many educators have protested the campaign, feeling that the use of proper English should be encouraged. London Grid for Learning, the group responsible for the posters, feels that the important thing is that the message reaches children, and that text speak is a good way to accomplish this.

I was surprised to learn that in other places, well, at least in New Zealand, educators are greeting text speak with far less disapproval. According to an article in USA TODAY New Zealand students will not be penalized for using text speak in their essay answers for most parts of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). The article did mention that they won't be considered acceptable on the English portions of the test, at least. The most shocking thing about this article was probably the date. It was two years old. I'd almost expect this sort of thing now, but the idea of that concession being made in 2006 is quite surprising.

In a UK forum for History Teachers, one teacher spoke about an article in a Scottish newspaper regarding text speak in schools. I would include the link to this article, but the article has been removed from the cite. This article, despite having not read it, did quite a lot to refute any arguments that text speak will cause the immanent collapse of the English language. The reason for this is that it was written over five s years ago, and discourse on the subject is primarily in the same prophesizing state that is was five years ago. By this time there should be some sort of evidence that we're embarking on some sort of downward spiral of illiteracy. I just don't see that happening at all. It just seems to me like a minor, near meaningless occurrence that has provided something for reporters to discuss in those gloomy months when no celebrities have died.






Anne Williams said:

That is really surprising about students in New Zealand not being penalized for using txt speak in their essays. Not that I think they should be punished but I just think it is common sense to know how to write an academically good essay. I guess there is the occasional slip up where we don't catch something we wrote like an, "lol" or "I am going 2...". But the generation who invented this shortcut type of language also grew up on what is proper English. I agree that right now this issue doens't have me scared for out English language or anything big like that and it hasn't quite been a huge phenomenon yet. But I think the next couple of generations are the ones that I am worried about. Txt speak, I feel, will be a lot more common in their world.

David Wilbanks said:

I definately agree. My friend who student teaches Junior High English said its REALLY common. It makes sense though, I was writing in proper, grammatically correct English, for several years before I used e-mail, instant messenger or cell phones. (Yeah, I'm THAT old.) So it will be interesting to see what happens to all these kids who grow up "bilingual" struggling to communicate in both TXT and English.

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