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The Effects of Texting on Literacy

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Franklin Young

Mrs. Mahaffey

English 1103-007

20 October 2011

Iz txt lnguage hlpng or hrtng u? The effects of new-age communication on literacy

Controversy surrounds the shorthand language of texting and chatting. Shorthand is a variation of the English language where words are shortened and incorrectly spelled, yet understood the same way as Standard English. With millions of people called "texters" using shorthand and acronyms in their daily texts, many researchers are exploring the effects of the language on literacy. Critics of texters warn society about the improper and unconventional language negatively affecting young students and adults. Supporters however, encourage the practice because they believe texters represent communication and technology progression. As society turns toward new forms of communication such as texting and chatting, literacy levels do not suffer--in fact, some areas can improve.

English-speaking people utilize shorthand language today as a quick and efficient way to communicate. As more people become accustomed to shorthand language, some do not like the practice. Critics, often traditionalist teachers and parents, believe texting causes improper grammar, limited vocabulary, and overall Standard English inaccuracy. Many strict English teachers and non-conforming parents who are not accustomed to the new style of shorthand literacy are quick to denounce it as an improper form of writing. Their argumentative grounds however, are normally opinionated and abstract.

In 2007, a State Examination Commission in Ireland said text participants of a literacy exam were "unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary" (Reuters, 4). However, more prolific studies find contrary results. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy sampled 35,000 households in a study to determine literacy levels. The study revolved around three areas of literacy--prose, document, and quantitative:

"Prose literacy is the ability to search, comprehend, and use information from continuous texts. Document literacy is the ability to search, comprehend and use information from non-continuous texts in various formats. Quantitative literacy is the ability to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials" (M. Smith, T. Smith 3).

The study resulted in higher scores in prose literacy, while document and quantitative literacy levels were unaffected. The ability to search, comprehend and use information from continuous texts is a vital skill for all ages and if texting and chatting improves this skill, why are people neglecting it? If I were a parent, I would get everyone in the family to start texting and chatting! This study is one of the few using a large sample, rather than a small controlled sample; therefore, the results are more trustworthy than small studies such as the State Examination Commission in Ireland. Other English-speaking nations are also inputting case studies and conclusions in the topic.

In an Australian study which included eighty college students, students were asked how their literacy levels felt after texting. The results were, "more than half of the college students in this sample, texters and nontexters alike, indicated that they thought text speak (shorthand) was hindering their ability to remember Standard English" (Drouin, Davis, 1). Memory declined but actual literacy levels still remained the same. As long as students continue to learn Standard English in conjunction with shorthand, memory will not be a factor. The same study later concludes, "increase (sp.) use of text speak is also not related to any increase or decrease in literacy processing speed from one lexicon to another" (Drouin, Davis, 17). If literacy processing speed is unaffected by increased usage of shorthand language, then texting and chatting should be encouraged. Typing shorthand whether in text or chat is harmless--people only denounce it because they are not accustomed to the advancing technology. Think about it. As technology has advanced, people have become smarter. Smarter in all aspects of life, including communication. The shorthand language is a product of efficient and smarter communication. There are benefits most critics will refuse to acknowledge. Reading ability and accuracy is one of them.

In order to be an efficient reader, you must have high phonological awareness--the ability to locate sounds in words. Ten and eleven year-old students who use shorthand in an Australian study had "fewer errors in reading messages" and "better phonological awareness" (Kemp 12). Fewer errors when reading and an increased sense of sound will benefit all readers. Shorthand can be credited for improving readers' overall literacy level. Reading is a vital part of everyone's literacy skill set. With this tool, teachers today could already be incorporating shorthanded reading techniques into their curriculum. Credibility for increased reading speed is also solid because through various studies, the results have been a trending result.

Shorthand language can be approached constructively--with schools adopting new ways of teaching, learning, and writing. Earlier I said teachers could already be incorporating shorthand into curriculums, and Robyn Jackson fulfilled my inquiry. She is a high school English teacher who allows her students to use shorthand in a literature and writing chat room. After the chat room session is over, she is often left with "vigorous and intelligent online conversations" (Vosloo, 5, Helderman, 2003, cited in O'Connor, 2005.) The conversations used in Jackson's class are unconventional yet helpful in developing a student's literacy skill set. Mrs. Jackson allows students to express themselves comfortably--which is momentous for keeping students interested in the topic. When my peers and I are allowed to express ourselves comfortably in a classroom,



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