Category Archives: Personal musings

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 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.