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TXTNG – NME or NBD? The Effects of Texting on Literacy Sara Gwin February 26, 2011 MTE/538 ▪ Dr. Robert Schweizer
There is concern that students who frequently express . and punctuation for the sake of slang and brevity (Baggott. As a result of their electronic chatting. This is largely due to the proliferation of mobile phones as well as internet-based instant messaging (IM). educators worry that their writing skills are suffering (Ring. that means: what do you think? This paper will discuss the negative aspects associated with text messaging or texting as it is commonly known. Texting does not always follow the standard rules of English grammar. kids are making countless syntax. Short-message format routinely sacrifices grammar. Is the prevalence of text messaging something to worry about? Should educators fear the use of texting in their classrooms? WDYT? For you old-timers. syntax. subject/verb agreement errors and spelling mistakes in writing assignments (Ross. 2006). a Modern Scourge? Texting refers to the use of abbreviations and other techniques to craft short-messaging service (SMS) and instant messages. is text messaging the enemy or no big deal?" As more and more students immerse themselves in a new language that they use over their cell phones and Blackberries. nor usual word spellings. Texting. 2006). 2007). and how this seemingly negative phenomenon can be used in a positive manner. texting is so pervasive that some regard it as an emerging language in its own right. the scope of this practice in current schools. But other educators see little evidence that the language of texting is having a negative impact on students' school-work. According to Vosloo (2009).2 TXTNG – NME or NBD? TXTNG – NME or NBD? "IYO TXTNG = NME or NBD?" Translation: "In your opinion.
When I initially observed this trend while teaching at Remington College from 2006 – 2010 as a full-time general education instructor. who have had to red-pen some ridiculous practices in high-school and college writings (http://www. newer phones can hold up to 20 pages of 160 characters. vowels and punctuation and makes no distinction between letters and numbers. .newsweek. However. Space is limited. including myself. this is one of the major reasons tweens¸ teens and other heavy text-users have learned to abbreviate words when texting. Will text messaging produce generations of illiterates? Could this—OMG—be the death of the English language? Those raising the alarm aren't linguists. Some worry that as textspeak drops consonants. Many are teachers. Text messaging or Short Messaging Service (SMS) can send up to 160 characters or fewer. T-Mobile sales representative in El Paso. It was later that I began to understand how technology had once again infiltrated the educational setting as Gen X and Gen Y students demonstrated their comfort and ease with technology. I did not fully understand the implications of seeing “b/c” and “u” and “c” in my students’ writing.com//2008/082/01/the-death-of-english-lol. grammatically correct writing. The term “textspeak” was coined in 2008 by David Crystal.html#). I thought my particular students were simply lazy. an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales (ELT Journal).3 TXTNG – NME or NBD? themselves in abbreviations and smiley faces may lose the capacity for more nuanced. people will no longer know how we're really supposed to communicate. Text messaging is the cell phone phenomenon that is changing the way people communicate.
texting has grown in the last few years due to improved technology with the introduction of the Apple iPhone or the popular Blackberries.S. averaging about 428 messages per month. 2007). 2002). reports that well over 60 percent of all the company’s cell phone communication is now being done via text messaging (Marquez. according to CTIA. 2007). They are now being built with “QWERTY” type keyboards. Teens also talk on the phone. only making and receiving about 231 calls per month.ctia. and language experts. who on average send and receive about 1. In the U. the leading industry trade group (http://www. and the work of “vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khandid to his neighbors eight hundred years ago . compared with just 7.4 TXTNG = NME or NBD? Chris Yakubovsky. savaging our sentences. parents. texting has provoked very strong.742 text messages a month. negative responses from teachers. thus making it easier for fingers to text away at a moment’s notice. In June 2008. but at a much lower rate. Negative responses from teachers and others In general.. The surge in text messaging is being driven by teens 13 to 17 years old..2 billion in June 2005. Cell phones are not being sold in the traditional form with number keypads.. The report even suggests that tweens or kids under the age of 12 are also heavy text users. .S.org). It has been described as the “continuing assault of technology on formal written English" (Lee. 75 billion text messages were sent in the U. raping our vocabulary” (Humphrys. pillaging our punctuation.. the Wireless Association.
not only does it ruin social interaction between humans. Everything becomes so impersonal and simple (Marquez. “text messaging is dangerous. writing skills and expression.” Holguin said. 2009). Since 2003 (Brown-Owens. Psychology major Dania Diaz said that text messaging can be negative. 2009). 2009). Teschner says there are certainly no benefits to spelling words incorrectly and shortening the language itself (Marquez.” Teschner said. Psychologist Cecilia Holguin of the University Counseling Center at the University of Texas at El Paso reports the effects of texting on a person’s communication skills. 2009). “For young people using this form of communication. Eason & Lader). “There is no awkwardness or vocal response involved when texting. Young people could virtually say anything through texts and don’t have to commit to engaging into the effects through a vocal conversation” (Marquez. The Corruption of Language For a number of years teachers and parents have blamed texting for two ills: the corruption of language and the degradation in spelling of youth writing. complaints of textisms creeping into formal school . their brains get accustomed to picturing words in the short text forms. Linguist professor at the University of Texas at El Paso Richard Teschner believes texting does affect the way young teenagers linguistic development goes (Marquez. Though he doesn’t believe young people will be affected in speech or in any major lexical development.5 TXTNG – NME or NBD? Others may not have expressed it as dramatically as Humphrys. but they do agree texting can have profound effects on how people of all ages communicate. “It does seem people are more comfortable text messaging rather than actually talking with another human.
(April 2010).000 messages a month. 31% of teens send and receive more than 100 messages per day or more than 3. In a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Wood and Joshi (2009) argue that to produce and read such abbreviations requires the texter to possess a level of phonological awareness (and orthographic awareness).000 texts a month. Interesting Statistics on Texting According to the Pew Study. . The positive effects of texting Recognizing that many textisms are some form of phonetic abbreviation. teens admitted that some form of texting has crept into their academic writing (Lenhart et al. or more than 6.6 TXTNG – NME or NBD? language have been raised from around the world. Is it no wonder students cannot squelch the temptation to use their cell phones in class!? In another survey.500 per month. here are statistics on teens and their cell phone usage: the typical American teen sends and receives 50 or more messages per day or 1. It appears as if learners are not able to use appropriate language in different contexts: their informal textisms or “textspeak” appear in formal writing assignments. many textisms are phonologically acceptable forms of written English. While spelled incorrectly in a conventional sense. Plester.. and 15% of teens who are texters send more than 200 texts a day.S. 2008). Decades of research has demonstrated a consistent association between different forms of phonological awareness and reading attainment. 64 percent of U. sixty-five percent of high school students use cell phones in school and one-quarter of text messages sent by teens are sent during class (Common Sense Media).
The point is that tailored text predates the text message.” Plester. "Txtng: the Gr8 Db8" (Oxford). Crystal makes two general points: that the language of texting is hardly as deviant as people think. The brevity of the text style. and others -. not worse. requires the author to write economically. or acronyms. He breaks down the distinctive elements of texting language -. Wood. inventively and playfully – doing this is good practice when learning to read and write. so we might as well accept that ours is a language of vandals. He maintains that the widespread concern about the impact of texting on children’s literacy is unfounded. They also have regular engagement with it.7 TXTNG – NME or NBD? Crystal (2008) believes that sending frequent texts can actually help children to read and write because of the abbreviations used. initialisms. contractions. and the 160 character constraint of an SMS. Plester and Bowyer (2008) concur that “when texting.and points out similar examples in linguistic practice from the ancient Egyptians to 20th-century broadcasting.pictograms. Even some common conventions are relatively newfangled: rules for using the oft-abused apostrophe were set only in the middle of the 19th century. and that texting actually makes young people better communicators. Shakespeare freely used elisions. the children have the freedom to ‘play’ with the construction of language that they are learning about at school and are creative in their use of it. Wood and Joshi (2009) believe that any engagement with the written word (as opposed to the spoken word) – including reading and writing textisms in digital form . Crystal spells out the first point by marshaling real linguistic evidence. In his book. novel syntax and several thousand madeup words (his own name was signed in six different ways).
some are even glad that students are communicating so frequently through writing and are creating their own language. However. some language teachers are trying to take advantage of this new use of technology. Plester and Bowyer (2008) postulate that “children’s use of this technology appears to have a positive impact on their developing literacy.8 TXTNG – NME or NBD? on mobile phones – is beneficial for children. though one with a nontraditional vocabulary. Wood. They recognize that “a new form of communication is taking hold in the linguistic sphere.” Constructive approaches to texting While the evidence may suggest otherwise.” They conclude that “if our children are showing difficulties with reading and spelling attainment. a hindrance to the development of reading and writing skills. texting is still seen by many educators as a problem in most classrooms. and for reading and ‘decoding’ text. not because of it.2008).In fact. which means new challenges for teaching and learning – but also new opportunities” (Bernard. it would seem that this is in spite of the contribution of textism use. Below are examples of how the issue of texting can be used as a beneficial tool in the classroom toward the development of English and language arts: • • Evolution of language Teaching about audience . as it provides children with an additional resource for learning about and experimenting with letter-sound correspondences and language.
parents. Cindi Rigsbee.9 TXTNG – NME or NBD? • • Increased writing Tapping into the social nature of texting The digital age is upon us and like it or not. faster communication means abbreviating and inventive spelling. If texting has no detrimental effect on spelling and actually improves literacy development. new developing media? As ever-changing technology settles into a stable place within society. and now constant. she addressed it head-on by discussing the Greek and Roman roots of English and eventually leading the conversation down to a popular internet phrase. Educators. Then I show them a MySpace page" (Bernard 2008). and what was contemporary English in the time of Jane Eyre. Internet celebrity and middle school English teacher. She also has students translate a barely legible MySpace page into proper English. It allows for experimental communication and word play. the benefits to the discourse of literacy and communication skills will become more evident. Not all teachers view this as a plague of the 21st century. text messaging has taken on the characteristics of most new technologies as they emerge on the social and academic scene. Opportunities exist to use texting to teach about the evolution of language and writing for an . then the television. Middle English. "We look at Old English. then the role of mobile-based texting is significant for education. Instead of ignoring the issue. Remember the horror and fear initially of the radio. is willing to utilize texting in her classrooms. and everyday people will become more accepting of it. recorded music. Overall.
10 TXTNG – NME or NBD? audience. texting is not going to go away. and how this seemingly negative phenomenon is used in a positive manner by teachers who are willing to embrace this new technology. the scope of this practice in current schools. . and for leveraging the social nature of literacy development. to increase the amount of writing learners do. How can it be completely detrimental to engage them more critically in the discourse of language with a medium they are already comfortable with? Teachers simply have to instruct them correctly in its use and timeliness within the classroom. This paper has discussed the negative aspects associated with text messaging or texting as it is commonly known. Educators throughout the world must understand the importance of bringing everyday literacies used by younger generations into the classroom. One factor is known for sure.
Lee. Technology and Teens. (2008). (2008).com/biztech/17927/.pewinternet. P. K.uk/news/article-483511/Ih8-txtmsgs-How-texting-wrecking-language. J.com/2009/10/negative-aspects-of-text-messaging/. September 24. (2002). Crystal. Texting.. 77-83. 145-161. 2011 from http://www. September 19. Daily Mail.. Wood.11 TXTNG – NME or NBD? References Baggott. Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. (2009). I Think. D. A. (2006). R. Bernard. C. J. (2009). 27(1).. Retrieved from http://www. (2008).com/gst/fullpage. S. Lenhart. Oxford: Oxford University Press. S. Retrieved from http://borderzine. D. Smith. Ring. Plester.. Literacy and Text Messaging. Zero-Thumb Game: How to Tame Texting. B. A.co. British Journal of Developmental Psychology.html. Crystal. I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language. Negative Aspects of Text Messaging. C. 62. Arafeh.edutopia.org/text-messaging-teaching-tool. Retrieved from http://www.pdf. Txting: The Gr8 Db8. Does text messaging harm students' writing skills? Retrieved from . Therefore IM.. (2008). Writing. & Joshi. Humphrys. Retrieved from http://www. Marquez. ELT Journal. (2007). New York Times.nytimes. (2006).1.html?res= 9F06E5D71230F93AA2575AC0A9649C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=al. Retrieved February 25. A.dailymail.org/pdfs PIP_Writing_Report_FINAL3. G. &Macgill. Retrieved from http://query. S.technologyreview.
American Teacher. September 2008. . The Death of English (LOL). & Bowyer. Retrieved from http://www. (2007).edutopia.newsweek. Retrieved from vosloo. (2009).net/wp-content/uploads/.12 http://www. Wood.com/2008/08/01/the-death-of-english-lol. (2008).org/poll-text-messaging-writing-skills?page=1. TXTNG – NME or NBD? Ross.. Oxford Brookes University. S./texting_and_literacy apr09_sv. Poster Presented at the British Psychological Society Developmental Section Conference.. B.pdf. K. C.html# Vosloo..pdfwww. A Cross-Lagged Longitudinal Study of Text Messaging and Its Impact on Literacy Skills: Preliminary Results. Teachers say text messages r ruining kids’ riting skills. S.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP-Teens-andMobile-2010-with-topline.. The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity. Plester.pewinternet.
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