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INTERESTING READ: A new study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology contradicts these thoughts and claims texting could have beneficial effects on children’s language skills. I’ve heard of studies that suggest texting could lead to the deterioration of English skills in children. Some teachers will even tell you they’ve seen text lingo such as shortenings, contractions, acronyms, symbols, and non-conventional spellings appear in homework assignments.

The study considered 88 children between the ages of 10 to 12. During the study, children were asked to generate text messages that described 10 different scenarios. From the study, children who texted regularly showed a richer vocabulary and were better equipped to express their thoughts in writing. In most cases, these children were also aware of the proper spelling of the words they were shortening. Through the course of the study, the children were also given traditional schoolwork. Here again, the students who texted regularly showed an edge.

According to Dr. Beverley Plester, the lead author of the report and senior lecturer at Coventry University, “The alarm in the media is based on selected anecdotes but actually when we look for examples of text speak in essays we don’t seem to find very many.” Plester goes on to say texting can help children since it exposes them to a variety of words. She also suggests the more exposure a person has to the written word, the more literate that person will become.

This isn’t the first study that suggests benefits of texting or instant messaging. Studies from the University of Toronto have also shown a positive effect on teenagers’ command of language as a result of instant messaging use.

What do you think, can texting and instant messaging improve kids’ language skills? Share your opinion in the comments.

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3 Comments »

Comment by pete
2009-02-28 12:42:43

Because there is a relationship between a sample of kids who text regularly from the British Study and vocabulary/language in a positive sense – does not mean that texting helps with language, definitively. It could be that regular texters (who happen to have better language skills) also have more resources available to them. We have to also see if there is a relationship between the improved language skills and factors such as parental supervision, income, locality, teacher training etc. It is easy to use a scientific study in isolation, but more information is needed to make a better commentary.

I think the gut feeling to most might be that texting is counter-productive among kids insofar as how it may negatively affect language and vocabulary skills. However, I think it also depends on the locality and (acceptable) norms.

In many parts of the world including the Caribbean where English is the official language, there are often many spoken dialects. Many of the inhabitants do not necessarily speak the “Queen’s English”; indeed sometimes some of these forms of English patois can sound like a foreign language to unfamiliar tourists. In Dominica and a few islands, there is also the French patois. However, this does not prevent locals from communicating perfectly in writing and orally and developing great language skills. So although it would be easy to convert other forms of expression directly and inaccurately to the wrong written form, for the most part the norms and education rules prevent writing the language in the manner as it is spoken.

In much the same way, I think it is perfectly possible to have a demarcation between how we may text vs how we write something like a formal email or how the kids present homework. I think kids in general can know to differentiate. I have no problems getting abbreviated texts that seem to have a language of its own. So my final reaction may be that there may not be a proven link between texting and language skills (where it matters).

What we can safely say however, is that IT has changed the world in many ways and the world will never be the same with the advent of the computer, cellphone etc, and my guess is that many of these abbreviations that are now abhored by the pure language experts and some teachers today will be everyday language tomorrow. In much the same way as we have happily kept using the old latin abbreviations in modern day language (see: http://latin-phrases.co.uk/abbreviations/), so too, I think we can get used to the modern abbreviations without butchering the english language.

Besides, I look at English as a dynamic language. Are Americans chastized for modifying the Queens language in ways (eg spelling of some words) that are more intuitive? No. In general it is very much acceptable. I think a sprinkling of new abbreviations as developed by texting is not only really no big deal, but it will be here to stay.

 
Comment by Suki
2009-02-28 18:46:21

I don’t know that we can count on any of these studies one way or another – there are just too many variables when it comes to kids and language skills – socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion – all factors that can aid or detract from language skills. With a study like text messaging, I could probably set up a study that will give me the desired result – I choose kids from an economically advantaged area (or areas) and I determine whether their language skills have been affected. Depending on the age of the child, the younger the child the more affluent I would think the parent has to be to agree to pay for the child to text message. The more affluent child has greater access to resources that would make them more likely to have superior language skills. I am not saying that poverty breeds a lack of understanding only a lack of resources. I don’t believe text messaging changes anything – when I was young, we spoke “pig latin” to each other – it was fun, the grown ups did not understand what we were talking about and I could still communicate in this way if I chose. My language skills (I hope) do not reflect this ability to pervert the English language.

SKT

 
Comment by pete
2009-03-01 00:07:03

Suki,

You are dead on. I drew a conclusion and even with a similar language example that you did cite – but for some reason my comment did not post. Yes, we don’t have the full story indeed. So there is no telling whether texting helps or hurts language skills. This is a similiar phenomenom about how variations of the oral English does not necessarily affect writing skills. Most educated people can differentiate adequately between the two. The example I drew on was the case where in the Caribbean (and many other countries) there is the local English (or even French) Patois version, but then again that does not prevent the residents from communicating perfectly in the written and spoken word!

I am also of the conviction that many of the text “language” developed in these times will be here to stay and find its way into the official language. And why not accept some of that anyway? We have readily accepted the old language latin words in our modern English vocab without question. I also drew the example of how Americans also transformed the original spelling of many English words from a practical point of view, now readily acceptable. As far as I am concerned English is an evolving language and there is some merit to the current texting protocol – though some may carry it too far.

 
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