Worried about textspeak?

Saucy ‘escort cards’ were a way to flirt in the Victorian era”. It was the headline which caused me to click on the link to the article, but once there, it was the image which caught my eye: “May I. C. U. home?”

“Well, what do you know! Victorian Englishmen used textspeak!” I thought.

So much for textspeak spelling the end of the English language as we know it. Obviously the quality of written communication hasn’t noticeably declined over the past three centuries, so what are we worried about?

I text a great deal and chat online through various IM (instant messaging) providers, and even I, the English teacher, frequently use popular acronyms like ‘lol’ (laughing out loud) and ‘idk’ (I don’t know). I’m weird about abbreviations, though. I have no compunction about using ‘ppl’ for people, ‘abt’ for about, or ‘msg’ for message, but I usually avoid ‘u’ and ‘r’, and I almost never shorten to to ‘2’. There’s just something about replacing a word with a similar-sounding letter or number that makes me uneasy. Maybe it’s because I expect to see something entirely different, like when people mix up homonyms and I see ‘bare’ instead of ‘bear’. Things like that bug me.

But do I worry that the use of textspeak is going to adversely affect young people’s writing skills? Not really. Just as we speak informally with friends but are able to speak formally with a business client, we write informally in SMS and online chats but are able to write formally when the occasion demands it. In his 14-minute TED Talk, Linguist John McWhorter suggests that for young people, texting is “evidence of a balancing act”, because they’re using this new way of writing “alongside their ordinary writing skills”.

Assuming that writing “How r u?” means the writer doesn’t know how to spell or will forget how to spell those words correctly is kind of silly… although it’s true that some people may have difficulty judging when it would be appropriate to use textspeak, and when not. Still, in an academic context, students know that textspeak is not acceptable, and adjust accordingly. I’ve seen students slip up and write ‘u’ in their essays, but it’s extremely rare. There’s also been the occasional ‘gonna’, which comes from informal speech, not textspeak. Last I looked, our unpolished, casual ways of speaking haven’t yet caused the English language to decline. It’s probable that textspeak won’t, either.

5 reasons to date a teacher

Since I am both single and a teacher, I thought I would try my hand at some blatant self-promotion… *grin*

  1. A teacher understands that everyone, including herself, is a work in progress, for none of her students will ever master her subject perfectly in the short time she has with them, and even she herself is not fully an expert in the field after so many years of teaching. She will accept you as you are, offer you support, and cheer you on your journey of personal growth.
  2. A teacher sees both the reality and the potential in her students, acknowledging where they are now but looking ahead to what and who they can be in the future. She has the ability to see the possibilities in a relationship with you, while recognising that getting there may require hard work — and she will be willing to put in that effort, if you are.
  3. A teacher is not fazed by mistakes because she does not expect any of her students to be perfect, and has watched them improve with determination, effort, and time. She will be understanding when you mess up and give you countless second chances, as long as she sees that you are sincere.
  4. A teacher is constantly learning and adapting to unexpected circumstances that crop up in her classroom. She will want to learn about you, with you and from you; in the process, she will adapt and make space for you in her life.
  5. A teacher knows that one size does not fit all, because each of her students learns differently and at a different pace. She is unlikely to make broad assumptions about you, and will refrain from comparing you to other men because she treats each person as an individual.


N.B. This post was written tongue-in-cheek, inspired by the piece by Rosemarie Urquico called “Date a girl who reads”.

5 compelling reasons to teach

Why do I love teaching? Let me count the ways:

  1. Continuity.

    I see my students for 3 hours a day, every day for ten weeks. This builds a sort of relationship, and gives me the chance to see the students learn and grow. At the same time, I have the opportunity to get to know some of them better, depending on how open they are and the kind of connection we establish between us.

  2. Tangible returns.

    I get to see the immediate results of my teaching. When a student gets what I’m trying to convey, when he or she grasps a new concept or begins to show improvement in language skills, I feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

  3. Investment.

    I know I’m contributing to these students’ future. I’m helping them to build a stronger foundation in language so that they will be able to tackle their pre-university, diploma or degree studies with greater confidence and ability. However, I’m also investing in more than academics. At 18-20, they’re on the cusp of adulthood and there are many uncertainties because they’re at a crossroads, not only academically but also personally. Sometimes the amount of choices in front of them could seem overwhelming. Sometimes they may doubt themselves or their abilities. Sometimes they face a terrible amount of pressure from every side. I hope that by being there, I can be some kind of help in any way that they need, or at least I can inspire them in some small way so that they realise that life is not as scary and black-and-white as they think. I’ve been where they have been and I know what it was like for me.

  4. Constant variety.

    Even though I may be teaching the same thing four times a year (four semesters a year), it’s never boring because the students are different. With their various personalities, perspectives, experiences, and learning styles, every semester is different. They respond to my lessons and my teaching materials differently. The composition of my class also is continually changing, with students from various countries coming together, so the class dynamics are unpredictable. It keeps me on my toes.

  5. Personal development.

    As a teacher, I’m always learning. I can’t use the same techniques or even the same teaching materials for each class, because some classes are weaker and require more help, while others are stronger and can be pushed a little farther. I’m always thinking of ways to make my lessons clearer, to improve my teaching materials, to give the students more practice in key areas, to make the learning more relevant, accessible, and interesting.