The Death of Language

I know that some of my readers who are educators of one sort or another will understand this lament.

Our English language (though I suspect this applies to other languages as well) is being decimated by technology.

More accurately, it is being decimated by the laziness and short-cuts encouraged by inconvenient technology.  In other words, people like to text, but texting is tedious (even if you’re really good at it), so short-cuts are created to shrink the actual number of ‘thumb presses’ (instead of key strokes?!) required.  Capitalization and punctuation are not even on the radar.  Spelling is massacred. 

This would be ok if it were limited to the rather specific environment of instant messaging.  Unfortunately, it’s not.  Having taught everything from ENG101 to Shakespeare to Biometric Security, I can vouch for the fact that the laziness of textspeak dramatically affects the writing abilities of students.  And it truly is laziness.  How long has spellchecker been around?  Is there really any exc use any longer for misspelling words – and I’m not talking about misspellings that are actually correctly spelled other words (so that spellchecker wouldn’t see it as an error)?  Since I teach primarily online now, the issue is even larger, since there is little or no conversational dialog – it’s all written in one form or another.  I take off points for students who are habitually relying on abbreviations, grammatical shortcuts and deliberate syntax errors in their writing.  But it can be an exhausting process all the same.  Getting students to put adequate thought into their work is one problem – having them express that thought in an intelligible manner is another.  Combined – it’s painful, to say the least.

At some point, something has to give.  Either expectations in terms of professionalism in writing are going to collapse, or a lot of otherwise very bright and talented people are going to remain professionally stunted because of an unwillingness to write correctly.  It makes me wonder what is being taught at the primary and secondary levels in terms of appropriate writing skills.  At some point will people just give up trying to foster proper writing skills?  At some point, will these kids be the ones calling the shots, and determining that the English language really doesn’t need much in the way of vowels, or that words can be spelled partially with numbers?  That capitalization and punctuation are optional? 

Most importantly, does this complaint really mean that I’m an old fart? 

8 Responses to “The Death of Language”

  1. Nancy Campbell Says:

    Writing is not taught in any depth because it is not on the mandated tests. In the rare occurrences that it is assessed on a state or federal level, it is reduced to a formula of “filling the entire page,” and starting paragraphs with monstrosities like: “Now I am going to tell you about…” This makes me weep, and certainly a text/Twitter world doesn’t help a bit. (And keep in mind, I’m not anti-testing or disapprove of school reform. But come on…)

  2. JP Says:

    My vote goes for old fart. LMAO. TTYL. ;)

  3. Melani Says:

    I think it is a legit complaint and no your not an old fart! I think our technology has made leaps and bounds over the years, but people still need to be able to know and recognize if they are spelling things incorrectly or if the punctuation is not correct, they should not rely on computers to do the checking for them.

  4. Paul Nelson Says:

    Gotta love education oriented towards a test or an evaluation rather than actual functionality.  Oh wait, no you don’t.Testing has it’s place, but clearly we’re seeing some of the limits of testing.  If your goal is to test your entire school population, obviously complicated things like composition are going to be de-emphasized because it’s just so freakin’ time consuming to evaluate well.

  5. Paul Nelson Says:

    U r sew mean.  Talk 2 U L8R

  6. Paul Nelson Says:

    That’s a whole deeper level – being able to determine if what the computer has told you is wrong, is actually wrong or not!  I encourage my students to check their papers themselves, then spellcheck it, then have someone else proof-read it.  From what I can tell, they do pretty much none of those steps.  Frustrating, and disappointing.  It’s amazing the backlash I get from students who blatantly plagiarize or insist that I’m too demanding for wanting them to write well. 

  7. Marie Says:

    Pretty convinced here that good writing comes from lots of good reading. I think the text language can be compared to Pidgin English — a utilitarian form of English developed in nations that had to trade with English-speakers and that over decades grew to be very beautiful and expressive. Short cuts and alterations for the sake of practicality can be good things for a dialect, and showcase communal creativity.Our problem is not that we have a pidgin for our cell phones. Our problem is that we are writing on cell phones more than we are anywhere else. The handy dialect becomes the main language used — then your national communication becomes stunted and ugly.

  8. Alldramas Says:

    Had already seen something like this

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