BY BRANDON SLOANE
“Dis wknd I was @ teh mall w/ my gfs nd my ex bf showed up nd it wuz awkkk.” While about 20 years ago this sentence would have been perceived as being written in a secret code, in today’s world, this type of condensed speech has become about as commonplace as it gets. Thumbspeak or “texting language” as it is more commonly known, has become a prominent way for people to communicate quickly by using shortened abbreviations in their text messages or when they’re chatting online. Newsweek reported that in 2008 alone, people sent 2.3 million text messages, which equates to around 6.3 billion messages each day. With the amount of text messaging being done, many critics are beginning to blame thumbspeak for contributing to students deteriorating spelling and grammatical skills. Although it would be easy to write off texting lingo as an atrocity ruining the English language, there are two sides to the story. While this new shortened language isn’t perfect, “IMO its rlly nt tht bad.”
One of the main arguments that detractors of thumbspeak have is that it leads to sloppiness and carelessness when writing and talking, and will eventually lead to the demise of the language itself. However, is this really as true as they want you to believe? A study done by the journal Reading and Writing observed how students texted and then tested them on a standardized English test. Students who performed better on the English test were the ones who also had much better grammar and spelling in their text messages. Results showed that if you’re a good writer in English you’re also a good writer in text language. Conversely, if you’re a poor speller academically you make more errors in thumbspeak. And those who used more abbreviations when texting tended to be better writers of standard English. Therefore, if you’re a good writer on lined paper, you’re most likely a good writer on your i-phone or facebook chat as well. So thumbspeak is the result of poor English, not the cause of it.
People are always quick to jump to the conclusion that thumbspeak is a problem, but what they fail to realize is how much of a benefit this innovative new language can be. David Crystal, a professional linguist, stated in his book, Texting: The Gr8 Deb8, that text language stimulates the brain because it requires the writer to condense the message into a few short lines and still get the message across clearly and understandably. Crystal went on to say that any changes to the language come organically and that new ways of communicating really don’t have an effect on changing the language.
Text language is here to stay and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. It has helped speed up the communication process so people can converse with others much more quickly and efficiently. To the critics, texting language has proven to have no effects on a student’s ability to comprehend and write proper English. However, as in the case with most technology throughout history, it will soon become outdated and antiquated by the next great thing. Maybe in 10 years we will be communicating through holograms and we won’t need to write down our messages anymore. But for now, thumbspeak rules the modern day, so “TTFN! omg c ya 2moro lol.”