The language is achieving new colours and tones in the world in which we live. Technology has become the buzzword in communication circles. The requirements in language versatility, which are universally understood, are overcome by the new short message service (SMS) language that is emerging rapidly. The cellphones that are conveniently used for social communication and in business transactions are invaluably helpful but can equally be extremely detrimental to the learning and development process of learners of other languages especially foreign language learning.
The short message service (SMS) language that is used by cellphone users and the advertising industry has also been discovered to be abundantly used by the learners in their written work. This discovery has prompted one to investigate the impact of this prevalent use, for it is believed that the SMS language is influencing the language proficiency of learners in a negative way. The purpose of this paper is to explicate how the SMS language affects the language proficiency of learners, and the role dictionaries can play in the improvement of learners’ language proficiency.
KEYWORDS Language, Technology, Cellphone, Short Message Service (Sms), Sms Language, Language Proficiency, Communication, Dictionary, Lexicographers, Learners, Educators, Advertising, Metalexicography
Technology plays a very important role in communication today. The cellphone is one of the most effective, convenient and widely used technological instruments used for communication globally. It uses a communication facility known as the short message service (SMS) which is relatively cheaper both in terms of time and money spent during the process of communication.
One uses fewer and shorter words compared to direct communication over the cellphone. Notwithstanding the myriad benefits provided by the SMS in enhancing communication and improving global business generally, the SMS has been found to be of detrimental effect on the language proficiency of learners. Learners use it as if it is an officially accepted and standard language. They mix it with the standard language they learn at school, especially the English language and consequently commit numerous errors ranging from incorrect spelling to ungrammatical sentence constructions.
The aim of this paper is firstly, to show how the SMS influences the learners’ English language proficiency. Secondly, to highlight the challenge the SMS language is posing to both educators in their 161endeavour to help learners master the English language, and the lexicographers, of the need to develop an SMS dictionary. Evidence of the influence of the SMS language on learners’ language proficiency especially in English is realised in the learners’ official written work such as tests, assignments and reports.
The use of this SMS language affects the learners’ performance since it does not observe grammatical and syntactic rules of a standard English language. It is neither an official nor a standard language. An example from a test script of a tertiary learner registered for a module in Communication reads: ”if we do get the money how shud it be used? ” The learner used ‘SHUD’ instead of ‘SHOULD’. The pronunciation of these two words is the same, and it is advantageous to use the first spelling from an SMS message, because it saves space and time. It is even simpler to write because it is spelled like it is spoken.
This simplified spelling would also affect words like ‘WOULD and COULD’. Nevertheless, the simplified spelling is not acceptable according to the English grammar rules. Ultimately the learner becomes a victim of the SMS language in the hands of the educators as he is punished for wrong spelling.
SHORT MESSAGE SERVICE (SMS)
The Short Message Service (SMS) is a service that a cellphone service provider provides to his clients for ease of communication. Cellphone users can communicate with one another using symbols and or abbreviated form of words and sentences to save space, time and money.
The following table resembles the SMS dictionary that Vodacom provides to its clients when one purchases a cellphone. Table 1. Vodacom SMS dictionary WORDS IN FULL As far as I remember Love Thanks Today Before Have a nice day see you SWYP At Tears in my eyes Sealed with a kiss Keep it simple, stupid Such a laugh At a moment Parents are watching Random act of kindness Please reply Second You’re on your own
Rak (SMS) – random act of kindness More English and Afrikaans examples appear in the tables below. Some words like the SMS word ‘AFAIR’ meaning “as far as I remember” do not have the same spelling as the English word but may be mistaken for the misspelled English word ‘AFFAIR’ which means “an event or situation; a sexual relationship” thereby creating confusion of meaning.
There are abbreviations from the SMS glossary which are acceptable English words and Afrikaans words, which are explained differently from the SMS glossary in the above Table. Such words can also confuse the learners. The actual meanings are as follows: English: The meanings will be provided from Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners.
For example, the following quotation was recorded from the programme ‘PLAY TV’ on SABC3 on Monday, 12 July 2003, at 15:30, in which viewers were asked to phone-in or SMS a greetings message for a prize. The SMS messages appeared on TV as supplementary information. The message read: “we luv u 2” The learners love watching the TV. They take the language used in the media as acceptable, official and standard especially that this language is being watched and used nationally, and in some cases internationally.
Besides appearing on our national television screens, the SMS language is also used abundantly on cards and artifacts that are used as memorabilia for the celebration of popular days marking social events such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. One such message reads: I LOVE MY MOM. The word ‘love’ is replaced with a symbol of a red heart. The SMS language has an influence even on the academics in the sense that they also use it when they write official documents such as circulars and memoranda.
They regard it as easy and convenient to use as it saves time, space and it is less expensive to implement. The sad part of this practice is that learners read those circulars and believe that the language used is acceptable because it is also used by the educators.