Youth Matters

Is texting killing our language?

Languages evolved through millennia for humans to communicate with each other and to help them express their emotions and ideas. In a lot of societies, one’s mother tongue and language skills can give them access to numerous job opportunities.

Languages continue to undergo changes, to the dismay of language purists, but to the glee of those who don’t believe in being uptight about grammar and spellings.

Even in Pakistan, where English is not the mother tongue of the citizens, much emphasis is placed on grammar and spellings in schools. That was the norm at least in good private schools. But the advent of social media has significantly affected the way we communicate, not only on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram but even in our everyday lives.

We conducted a survey to understand the ways, if any, text messaging and auto-correct affect the language skills of students. 

 

Majority (43.8%) of responders said that they did not care about grammar and spellings while text messaging, and 21.9% responded with “sometimes”. We also asked the students how much time they spend text messaging; 50% said 4-5 hours, while 43.8% said 1-2 hours. Majority used auto-correct for their messages, with 53.1% in this group. 31% responded in negative. It was not clear though whether the reason was better language skills or the unconcern about it.

Interestingly, when asked if they use short-forms of various expressions like OMG (oh my god), LOL (laugh out loud) , ROFL (rolling on the floor), 37.5% of students said they do not. Although, around 15% said they did. 

According to Sidra Ikram, an IELTS trainer, language as self-confidence is the most beautiful trait one can have. There is a flip side too, though, to judging people over their language skills. A lot of discourse these days has taken place on how such high standards can be elitist, sometimes ableist too. That is, like good education prospects and skills, good command over grammar might not come easy to everyone. 

Those belonging to low-income backgrounds that mostly have to choose public schools don’t have the luxury to have trained teachers or access to good subject matter. The habit of reading is generally considered to be a pre-requisite to have a command on good sentence structuring, grammar, spellings and expressions. This puts poor students at an added disadvantage of mastering a language. 

Similarly, having learning disabilities or an inability to express articulately can also hinder in acquiring these skills. Since this survey was about students’ skills when it comes to English language, one should also take into account the major factor it not being the first language of Pakistanis.

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