Nielsen reported in June that in the first quarter of ’09, teens on average send/receive 2,900 texts a month, up from 2,272 in the fourth quarter of ’08. That’s a 28% increase in texting in just 3 months.
I’ve seen articles that have warned that the advent of texting, with it’s abbreviations (OMG) and word substitutions (gr8), is the harbinger of the end of the English language as we’ve known it.
Now, some educators are saying that texting can be good for teens in terms of language development. Initial research indicated that when it comes to informal essays, kids who use some text-speak outperform kids who don’t. When it comes to formal essays, (perhaps obviously) texting can hurt performance.
I’m thinking the jury is still out on whether texting will end up being good or bad for teens, and that we won’t know the ultimate answer for a very long time.
My question is, does it really matter one way or the other?
Language changes. We don’t speak the King’s English anymore, although there are some who still cling to the King James Bible. I’ve heard my share of KJV-laced prayers in church (“We beseech thee, oh Lord”) but not nearly as much these days.
There will be plenty of English purists who stand watch and will be sure to warn along the way. Even so, will it matter?
I’m confident kids will still be learning proper English in schools for the immediate future.
I won’t be surprised, however, if things change over time. Look at how learning the skill of handwriting has disappeared in school curriculum over the years.
Today’s teenagers are going to text. Texting won’t be going away anytime soon. There might be something else beyond texting as technologies continue to develop, but for now texting is a primary mode of communication.
Back when my generation was moving through adolescence, I don’t remember that writing notes to friends (other than when we were in a class) was popular. We primarily communicated in person or by phone. Were the adults of that time concerned because we had lost the art of note or letter writing? Perhaps there were some. Were adults concerned about our casual verbal communication when they overheard our conversations? Has it made a difference in our lives today? Were we negatively impacted by the lack of writing as a form of communication to our peers? Can anyone now provide a qualitative answer? Does anyone care?
So now, kids are writing to communicate with their peers and adults at an impressively increasing rate. For language purists, it might be not be writing in the mode they would desire, but does it matter?
When teens text they have to think about language. They have to express their thoughts. That cannot be all bad.
If today’s teens are still texting well into their adult years, the English language might just look different than it does today. But, at least they’ll know the language and I’m thinking that they’ll be able to communicate successfully.
However, learning to express ones self is a different issue entirely! That’s where the true breakdown is. You can’t get a read on whether or not someone truly understands what you’re saying on the other side of a text. When you are talking directly with someone, you know right away whether or not you’re communicating.