Texting: Friend or Foe?
As my Japanese friend Naho boarded the plane that would bring her back to her native island country, I yelled, “Be sure to contact me when you get there! ” Twelve hours later, I was pleased – and not at all surprised – to receive a simple farewell text message with a picture of Naho and her family, then sent her a reply within seconds. But, with my friend thousands of miles away, how were we able to carry on such fluid conversation? How were we able to keep in touch so fully with only instants between each sentence?
By texting, of course – the magical communication method that allows so many people to remain in touch while traveling across the globe. Texting has created a new dimension of English by allowing quick, easy, and entertaining conversation between separated people. However, with new innovations come apprehensions. Massive waves of criticisms have been targeted at this form of connection between people. Professors and other experts in the English language have expressed deep concerns about the potential effects that texting may have on the linguistic abilities of texters. Are these fears grounded?
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Is there just cause to worry? In his article “2b or Not2b? ”, English professor and author David Crystal says, “No”, and I agree with him. Contrary to the opinion of many, texting and other forms of instant messaging do not suppress the development of language in young people, but rather enhance language abilities and create new methods of communication. Thanks to the progress of five years of studies and research in academia, the beneficial impact that texting has on the quality and progression of linguistic skills in texters is slowly being acknowledged and appreciated.
According to one study conducted by Coventry University, texting has a hugely favorable effect on texters, especially on young children equipped with cell phones. The university found that children who condensed their communication most frequently exhibited stronger reading abilities and more thorough comprehensions of vocabulary than their counterparts who used traditional language in communicating. The best spellers and writers in the study were mostly children who used many common abbreviations in their texting, and those who were given cell phones at a younger age displayed a stronger mastery of English overall. Crystal, 345) These professionals have produced proof that adeptly demonstrates the good things that come to those who text. Texting should not be viewed as the demise of true English, but rather as a form of its progression. The critics of texting should observe the huge difference between modern English communication and the language used in centuries past. For example, the famous line from William Shakespeare’s work Romeo and Juliet reads, “Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo! ” Using modern interpretation, one would believe this phrase to mean, “Where are you, Romeo? ” Is this so in Shakespeare’s play?
Of course, it is not; rather, the word “where” is a short version of the word “wherefore”, which means “for what purpose? ” or “why? ”. If Shakespeare knew that this famous line would be understood by his audience as a question of physical position rather than of purpose, he would be aghast; he had used plain English, so how could we possibly mistake him so? Our misinterpretation is due to the new English which we have been taught, a language almost altogether unique from the one used by Shakespeare. But no modern professor would consider criticizing the language that is being studied and spoken today.
I believe that “proper” English is to the language of the Elizabethan era as texting is to “proper” English. The subjects of Elizabeth I would panic if they knew how drastically their language would change in the next few centuries; and yet, no one regrets how it has evolved. Texting should be perceived as a new English, the next phase of evolution for our language. Despite the many good things which texting has brought to English linguistics, many prominent academics, refusing to lose their apprehensions about this novel form of communication, still speak about the detriments of texting.
In her article, “Twitter vs. Thought”, English professor and author Dawn Ruth expresses apprehensions about the impact that texting might have on language development. Ruth says that texting is a “hindrance to learning” and that this “hindrance to learning” will cause students to be unable to use English properly; this, she believes, will cause our beloved language to rapidly dissolve into nothing. (44) However, Crystal argues that “children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literary awareness…. If [they] re aware that texting behavior is different, [they] must have already intuited that there is…a standard” (345) Texting cannot cause a person’s language abilities to deteriorate if they have a strong enough comprehension of language. I firmly believe that if a person does not have a solid understanding of English before he begins texting, then his understanding of the language will neither deteriorate nor ameliorate, but remain in its unrefined state; conversely, if a person has been educated well in linguistics, then texting will either have a good effect or no effect at all on his abilities.
I have seen many proofs of this in my own friends. One girl loves to use abbreviations in texting, but she scored in the 98th percentile on her PSAT during her sophomore year, is on the varsity Knowledge Bowl team, and is one of the finest students in the school; another friend, who actually uses adequate spelling in his text messages, has failed countless classes and, most likely, will have to remain in high school for an extra year in order to compensate for the classes he has failed.
It is important to see that texting is not the “hindrance to learning” that many believe it to be; rather, it is just another method of communication that uses a slightly different style of writing, and a texter’s language abilities will not disappear or even decline.
Although texting is viewed by some to be a vastly destructive force that may eliminate English as it is known today, it is actually just a new genre of communication that has potentially beneficial consequences in the language. Texting has been proven by experts to not only be harmless to the development of linguistic skills, but to also increase texters’ abilities in vocabulary comprehension, reading, writing, and overall understanding of the language.
The condensed form of English used in texting is not the downfall of the language, but rather a form of its evolution; it is not to be hindered, but to be encouraged and developed. Those who believe that strong English skills will disappear should learn to overcome their fear of new things and begin to appreciate the benefits of texting. May all people come to understand that texting is a friend, not a foe, and should be treated as such.
Crystal, David. “2b or Not 2b?” They Say, I Say. Ed. Gerald Graff, Cathy
Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. 335-345. Print.
Ruth, Dawn. “Twitter Versus Thought.” New Orleans Magazine May 2010: 44-45. ProQuest Research Library. PDF. 21 Dec 2012.