The Future of Language: y bovr w grmr & wrds wen txt spk=ez

xpstd @ frontline books
If the first part of my title piques your curiosity and the latter part leaves you in convulsions, chances are you're not (yet) au fait with txt spk. You might wonder if there is any need to bother developing any adeptness with a language that refuses vowels, apostrophes and spreads exclamation marks willy nilly (I mean, really!!!).

Well, I bet some teachers in New Zealand happily thought the same thing until the Qualifications Authority deemed txt speak a-ok in exams. Not only will students not be marked down for their lack of “academic” English*, but teachers are expected to understand text speak in order to mark the exams (rofl) . Now, I’ve had my fair-share of teachers who recycled lesson plans on yellowed cue-cards, enjoyed long monologues on the merits of commas, hyperventilated at the mere thought of confusion between “there” and “their,” (not to mention “they’re”) and extolled quotidian lauds upon the apostrophe. But, I have not enjoyed the marking of a teacher (aaf) who are dwn w 404s. Apparently, New Zealand secondary school teachers cannot mark down a student for using txt spk in an exam as long as the answer “clearly shows the required understanding.” Ha ha! Much more lho, lol, and even rofl. I would like to know how aforementioned teacher(s) might clearly understand the student’s use of txt spk. txt_speak_postcard For a translation of this postcard, click here.
Will the New Zealand exam authority hold night classes in txt spk: txt spk 101, spk g%d 4 tchrs, and “how to mark and essay that’s not in English even though it’s about Virginia Woolf”? Will teachers be granted extra marking hours in order to decipher this Creole? Bali Haque, the chief of the New Zealand exam board says: “markers involved in accessing NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) exams are trained professionals, experienced in interpreting the variety of writing styles and language uses encountered during the marking process.”

Of course there are positives. Allowing this kind of short form takes account of the exam situation where speed is usually a necessity. Perhaps also text language is more inclusive, enabling some students to verbalise their ideas who might otherwise leave them in ephemerality (not so useful for an exam)? (You might think that comes under the remit of teaching – then you’ve never tried to teach at some of the schools I have..and yes, they’re in London). “In some ways, IM is an English teacher’s dream because it’s using writing for a real purpose, towards a real audience, and that’s something we always struggle with in a classroom.” Sure text speak is another development, evolution even, in language and sure the invention of the printing press solicited warnings (oh no, now the general populace will have access to information…eek eek). However, I think it would be a great loss if future generations do not realise that there are different languages for different situations. Txt spk is not the only way to go.

Why not join us on Wed. 28th of Feb. at the Institute of Creative Technology for a roundtable discussion on “The Future of Language“? The discussion will begin at 16:00.

New technologies have had a major influence on the way we communicate and use language today: punctuation and capital letters are being dropped in favour of emoticons, letter-number homophones and acronyms. But are email, instant messaging and mobile text messaging degrading the language? This question surfaces in debates among writers, language professionals and academics, as well as among parents and their children.”

rofl = Rolling on the floor laughing
aaf = As a friend
404s = Errors
lho = Laughing head off
lol = Lots of laughs
* I might be exaggerating slightly here. Apparently, teachers can mark down for text speak used in English literature/language exams.

7 thoughts on “The Future of Language: y bovr w grmr & wrds wen txt spk=ez

  1. As you say “there are different languages for different situations” and I find myself using ’email shorthand’ and my own ‘txt spk’ quite differently:
    email has a long-recognised series of abbrevations and acronyms that save typing and add rudimentary ’emotional’ expression in leiu of the missing body language and facial expressions of face-to-face communication. I find the most commonly understood of these can be used as convenient abbreviations, just as ‘etc’ or ‘PS’ evolved out of convenience.
    Texting is slightly different, and I like to condense my txts as far as possible while retaining the meaning, although I’ve developed a way of doing this without adopting the whole range of txt spk (partly based on the established principle of removing the vowels – it worked for the ancient Egyptians) instead, I omit all non-essential words and use single letters to replace words wherever possible. I still use semicolons where appropriate, though!
    But I also occasionally slip out of these speedy practices to ‘write’ texts and ‘compose’ email essays…
    I suppose it’s obvious to state that Txt spk is inevitably part of the language – and, as those using it grow and incorporate it in their everyday lives, and those who don’t use it ummm… get older and die, some of its elements will become permanently embedded into the parent language. ‘Eats shoots and leaves’ is all very well for those of us clinging to our rage over misplaced punctuation and the like (sad, but seeing radio’s or pizza’s still pisses me off), but it won’t have much impact on the growth of new ways of communicating, since this bottom-up evolution has no directing grand plan – it has emerged from what people actually do, not what some people think they should do.
    A related area I find more interesting at present is in the semantic use of XHTML code, but that’s another posting…
    BTW FYI a 401 is ‘unauthorised access’ – see the full error codes. ‘404’ (page not found) is more widely understood in the web developer community as shorthand.

  2. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for commenting. I think you’ve reminded us of an important point: “it has emerged from what people actually do, not what some people think they should do.” How true. Txt spk is practise, now we’re trying to work on the theory rather than the other (more usual perhaps) way around.
    Do tell us about the semantic use of XHTML?
    btw: thanks for noticing the typo…have fixed it!!

  3. Re: e-mail standards. Dr. Miriam Jones tells her students how e-mails sent to lecturers should look: “Email is generally more relaxed than traditional business or professional correspondence. But, business or professional email still needs to be a lot more formal (i.e. polite; well-written) than text messages to your homies. K?”

  4. Re txt spk in exams. I like the idea that they’re promoting – the exam is to test you in a certain subject. If it is to test you in conventional written English, that’s another matter and should be clarified as part of the curriculum. IMV it’s important to be clear about ‘what is being examined’. I don’t text much as my fingers aren’t nimble enough, but I like getting the messages.
    yrs G.Randma

  5. Hi Joanna or should I say G.Randma?!!
    You’re right about exams – the main aim is to test knowledge(perhaps memory) of a certain subject. But, is literacy not linked in with knowledge? In order to be clear, to *know* a subject, should we also be eloquent in it? Perhaps txt spk has levels of eloquence?
    I eagerly wait to see what New Zealand teachers say of the marking…

  6. Had to look into this – and (unfortunately) it looks as though it’s a bit of an exaggeration. The New Zealand Herald clears matters up.

  7. Thanks for the link Jill. This article definitely sheds a different light on the use of text speak in exams. I’m especially interested to see Bali Haque quoted as being much more precise about when students might be “forgiven” for using text speak. Looks like this article came out the day after the one in In fact, in the New Zealand Herald the day before the article you link to, Bali Haque said credit would be given in this year’s NCEA exams if the answer “clearly shows the required understanding”, even if text abbreviations were used. Text speak might not be as acceptable in an English exam (apparently) “But if language isn’t a big part of the standard, use of abbreviations or incorrect spelling isn’t necessarily going to affect marks.” I went to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website and they say: “The candidates’ priority at all times should be to ensure their answers are clearly understandable to markers. The best way to do this is to use standard English,” [Haque] said.”
    It seems, in November 2006, Scotland too was allowing text speak: “Exam chiefs in Scotland were branded “ridiculous” today after admitting that answers written in text message language will be acceptable in English tests as long as they are correct.”
    Why did you say “unfortunately” it seems like and exaggeration? Are you experiencing students submitting work or writing exam answers with text speak abbreviations?

Comments are closed.