Text messaging in “short-cut style” is the fastest way to send casual messages in today’s digital culture. In “Text-speak: Language Evolution or Just Laziness?,” Anne Merritt asserts that text-speak, the shortened way of writing words, has a strong negative impact on children’s communication skills. She looks at it as a decline in proper language skills and explains that it alters the way children communicate. Merritt’s claim has no solid ground however, because children’s speaking and writing abilities cannot be solely measured by a “set of language standards.” Communication skills embrace unique ways of expressions in which the listener or the receiver understands the message. In fact, shortening or cutting the spelling of words is a skill in itself, particularly if it clearly conveys the proper meaning to its recipient or reader. Text-speak need not be taken as a formal way of communication. Instead, it must be viewed in the context of informal articulation. Short-cut text messaging has three affirmative points to reflect on and consider: cognitive development; transcribing and decoding skills; and the convenience of creative and fast messaging in a very personal manner.
According to Merritt, the phonetics or acronymic bites of language, like “L8R,” “m8” and “b4,” are clear manifestations of a decline in proper language skills that change children’s way to communicate. However, if one would look at it in a profound way, it is a creative, concise, conceptual, innovative language learning, and an information processing skill in a child’s cognitive development. In the fields of study of neuroscience and psychology, cognitive development focuses on a child’s development in areas of processing information and concept, perceptual and learning language skills, and other aspects of adult mental development. In this sense, text-speak is a new language learning capability.
Text-speak is a problem of productive language skill, Merritt posits. On the contrary, it is not a problem because it is dynamic and creative in nature. Transcribing a word in a shortest way possible, mostly in the alpha-numeric system, is a result of an imaginative mind. More so, figuring out the proper English word for a certain shortcut text is a sort of a word puzzle or word drill. Correspondingly, it is a practice of critical thinking by way of association and analyzing the word’s sound in letter-number combinations. Therefore, it is a mental skill.
Merritt argues that as communication is becoming global and electronic in form, the decline in spoken and written communications will become greater. In contrast, communication in a global stage and in electronic forms are advancing and very useful. It is a practical and proactive trend of delivering quick messages in today’s hasty and complex way of life. She overlooks that globalization brings everyone closer to one another, where communication becomes more personal in perspective and creative in style.
On children’s bad writing habits in text-speak format, Merritt underscores that children communicate beyond colloquial level who need to be properly educated on the use of technology in formal and professional contexts. Basically, technology is an open pit of ideas and text-speak should not be levelled to a formal and professional setting because it is a non-academic framework and perspective. Moreover, research studies that Merritt cited from Coventry University, England, which is known for public research, and University of Hawaii, United States of America, known for public co-educational research, did not support her viewpoint. Studies revealed that children explicitly distinguish formal from informal speech and their frequent use of text-speak does not necessary show a relationship or correlation with poor essay writing skills. In analyzing the issue, Merritt should have set aside her personal biases and prejudices as an English teacher. Also, she disregards the fact that shortened words and cryptic phrasings are semantic circuits of techno-digital evolution in our modern time.
Merritt stresses that children learn proper English in school but they are not applying it outside the classroom, causing each lesson to be ineffective and unproductive to them. Nevertheless, she fails herself to recognize the boundaries between a formal communication, which is institutional, and an informal communication, which is conversational and personal in approach. When children leave the parapet of their schools, it is still their choice to a freer, spontaneous, easy and convenient means of communicating which is complacent for them. More so, the young generation is not an exception to the influence of social media where new communication patterns are formed.
Putting things together, text-speak is an informal form of communication. It is a practice of the freedom of expression and absolutely an individual choice. The use of text-speak is mutual and personal, and the shortest way to express one’s message. As people acclimatize to the rapids of social transformation, communication also evolves in a changing social environment where there is no room for a delayed adaptation. Indeed, this is a great challenge in all learning and academic institutions.
Work Cited / Research Works Acknowledgment:
Merritt, Anne. “Text-speak: language evolution or just laziness?” The Telegraph. 03 April 2013. Web. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/9966117/Text-speak-language-evolution-or-just-laziness.html
Roberts, K., et al. 2013. Does Text-to-Speech Use Improve Reading Skills of High School Students? University of Hawaii Manoa.
Waldron, S., et al. 2016. Texting Behavior and Language Skills in Children and Adults. Coventry University and University of Tasmania.