How does the use of cell phones change the English Language for high school and college students?
How does the use of cell phones change the English Language for high school and college students?
The life of a twenty-first-century teenager is deprived without a cell phone. An increasing amount of students today go around with smartphones in their hands, using them not only for communication but also for education. Critics, however, have repeatedly argues that the excessive use of cell phones is harming students’ abilities to communicate properly. In his paper SMS Texting and Its Potential Impacts on Students’ Written Communication Skills, Dansieh says that the opinion on cell phones and the nature of their impact is divided into three streams: there are those who think that cell phones and related technology have a positive impact on students’ written and communication skills; others, who argue the opposite, and finally, those who take a more neutral side in the debate, saying that the use of cell phones, especially SMS texting, is neither good nor bad CITATION Dan11 p 222 n y t l 16393 (222).
Since SMS texting is meant to say things in a concise manner, it does not show any regard towards the basic rules of grammar, such as punctuation, periods, and so on. The more students gravitate towards the habit of texting, the more they imbibe the disregard of grammar into their daily writing routine. There are some, like David Crystal, who would say the opposite. The Linguistics Professor in his book the Txtng: the Gr8 Db8, says that the more students write, the more they improve. He also presented six points that contributed to elaborating on the statement, the most important being that in texting, less than ten percent of the words in the English Language are abbreviated, and that it saves times. Additionally, children and adults use text speak alike, with the latter being more inclined to do so CITATION Cry08 l 16393 (Crystal).
Crystal argument, however, seems to be defeated by the growing number of teenagers who often find it difficult to write a complete sentence in proper English. His argument is also refuted by the inclusion of slang in the dictionary, which critics argue is destroying the sanctity of English Language, The increased usage of words like ‘da’ instead of ‘the’, ‘2’ instead of ‘to’ or ‘too’, and confusion between common words like ‘except’ and ‘accept’ is an example of the invasion of text speak into the English Language.
Change in the English Language:
The use of cell phones and the consequent change in the language of teenagers can broadly by divided into two categories, as elaborated upon by Naomi Baron. These are minor shifts in vocabulary and sentence structure, and major shifts in attitudinal changes in teenagers due to the incorporation of slang into daily life CITATION Bar09 l 16393 (Baron).
Change in vocabulary and sentence structure: The most common of these is the use of acronyms in everyday language. Although the use of abbreviations is accepted all over the world, there are terms in text speak that break the norms of the rules of grammar. Children are heard using terms like LOL, ROFL, and BRB in daily speak CITATION Bar09 p “par 4” l 16393 (Baron par 4).
Another one, and perhaps a little more concerning of this issue is the confusion between whether a word is one word, hyphenated, or compound. Baron uses the example of the word newspaper, and children’s confusion about whether it is spelled as newspaper, newspaper, or newspaper. The condition has exacerbated due to the rampant presence of the internet, which is not exactly renowned for its regard for grammar. Most internet typing tools and software do not have any spell checkers. Therefore, if one makes a mistake in a word like a newspaper, and types in the news paper, there is a fair chance that it will not be corrected. Additionally, the increased use of such words on a regular basis without being checked will slowly make the student believe that newspaper is the correct way to describe the source CITATION Bar09 p “pars 4-6” l 16393 (Baron pars 4-6).
The growing disregard for punctuation and spelling also owes its rise to the use of cell phones by teenagers. Due to the availability of spell-checkers and language tools online, more and more students have gravitated towards cell phones and other gadgets. The dictionary has, consequently, fallen into oblivion. Even before a student finishes typing in a misspelled word, the automatic spell-checker corrects it. Additionally, if students want to confirm whether a word is right or wrong, they simply have to type in the word, and the search engine will often have a correct suggestion in the list of answers. Thus, most of the time, students do not even have to click through links to reach a website CITATION Bar09 p “par 8” l 16393 (Baron par 8).
In such a context, disregard for other literary tools like apostrophes, colons and semi-colons feels like an advanced problem. One of the most common examples is the confusion between your and you’re. Text speak demotes both to the term ur, which can be used in both contexts. For example, ur so funny and I ha ur book CITATION Bar09 p “par 9” l 16393 (Baron par 9).
Change in attitude and perceptions due to text speak: The second most concerning problem due to the rise of text speak is the attitudinal change that has occurred due to children’s rampant use of cell phones. An article in the esteemed journal, Psychology Today, states that spending an increased amount of time with technology can change the composition, or the wiring, of the human brain. This is because increased exposure to something like the internet and technology makes the children used to certain aspects. For example, a child good at looking up things on a search engine may not be able to remember it. A child good at playing video games may be able to develop strategies, but may be distracted easily due to noise and music. Similarly, using words in vocabulary that convey a certain emotion may make students used to incorporating the same words and same emotion in their daily life as well CITATION Tay12 p “par 11” l 16393 (Taylor par 11).
Not only has there been a change in the attitude of children towards life, but also towards the rules of grammar as well. Today, there is not much regard for what can be accepted as good English. One who doesn’t speak as well is not provided enough motivation by being labelled as a learner, and not as one who is weak and needs improvement. The attitude of native speakers too has changed. Since the use of texting is frequent among teens, most of them never learnt to distinguish between the individual emotions that certain words convey. For example, the sentences ‘may I come in?’ and ‘can I come in?’ Mean the same to thing to almost all college going and high school students. In reality, however, may convey a sense of respect towards one to whom the question has been directed whereas can denotes a sense of dominance and superiority. What is more surprising is that the number of students does not know so include a large number of graduate students, who have to have cleared their high school and undergraduate examinations to get to grad school CITATION Bar09 p “pars 13-18” l 16393 (Baron pars 13-18).
There is, however, some debate as to whether the advent of the text speaks of language is inadvertent or deliberate. A study called Writing, Technology and Teens by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 64% of 700 students reported using a form of shorthand derived from text speak while taking notes in classes. Moreover, most of these students were not even aware of doing so. Therefore, it is not surprising for them if they suddenly substitute ‘the’ with ‘da’, and ‘and’ with ‘n’ in their college and school essays CITATION Len08 l 16393 (Lenhart, Arafeh and Smith).
Furthermore, the habit exacerbates due to teachers’ attitudes towards the usage of internet and text slang in papers. Not only do they expect it, but they also refrain from checking the students from using proper literary tools CITATION Lyt11 p “par 6” l 16393 (Lytle par 6).
Furthermore, this change in attitude that has occurred in both teachers and students is also having an impact on the overall quality of education. In his article, How Slang affects students in the Classroom, Ryan Lytle tells about how the teachers are mourning the deteriorating quality of college admission essays. College admission officials have often complained that the omnipresent internet and cell phone technology has hampered with students’ abilities to differentiate between formal language and colloquial terms. Thus, most students write as they speak in their college essays, which results in the works being discarded after only a few sentences of reading CITATION Lyt11 p “pars 5-10” l 16393 (Lytle pars 5-10).
It is not as though cell phones are completely destroying the trend of education. They have not only made access to information easier, but also more interesting. However, control over the use of the same is what one has to concern oneself with. There need to be comprehensive studies on how one can counter the situation, especially where students are disregarding the only language universally accepted in the world. There is a need for balance between learning with technology and letting it take over aspects of the language. When we achieve it, the education system will improve drastically.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Baron, Naomi. “Are Digital Media Changing Language?” Educational Leadership 66.6 (2009): 42-46. Web.
Crystal, David. Txtng: The Gr8 Db8. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Web.
Dansieh, Solomon A. “SMS Texting and Its Potential Impacts on Students’ Written Communication Skills.” International Journal of English Linguistics (2011): 222-229. Document.
Lenhart, Amanda, et al. Writing, Technology and Teens . Print . Washington DC: Pew Research Center; The National Commission on Writing , 2008. Web .
Lytle, Ryan. How Slang Affects Students in the Classroom. 13 June 2011. Web. 7 November 2015.
Taylor, Jim. How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus. 4 December 2012. Web. 7 November 2015.