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Letter of the Day: Text language and the education system

Published:Wednesday | December 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Most of us in the Caribbean speak an English Creole as our first language. Despite this, we are expected, and sometimes forced, to speak and write a standard form of English in formal situations, such as what occurs in the classroom.

As a result, we are likely to learn a standard, Caribbean English as our second language. However, this process has become more challenging with the influence and interference of text language, which has seeped into formal writing and expression. Text language is an abbreviated form of jargon and/or vernacular which has gained acceptance by users of various social media platforms. It is widely utilised by users of cellular phones to communicate with each other.

Some educators refer to the process of development which all second language learners experience as interlanguage. Interlanguage includes some forms of the second language, with a mixture of other structures from the first language, as well as from environmental influences.

Ever since the increase of social media, such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram, among others, many of our students have been using text language for academic purposes. This development should be a cause for concern, not only for educators, but the wider society since many students who regularly use text language will sooner or later not realise or know when to draw the line and conform to formal language. The widespread usage of text language in formal communications and expression also serves as a barrier to communications. In many instances, there is a disconnect between the intended message of the writer and how the reader interprets that message.

The period of adolescence is a time of exploration. However, our youngsters, for the most part, have not fully yet developed their language competencies and, therefore, the flexibility with which adults can use both forms of the language is not afforded to them. Additionally, text language has become trendy among teenagers, and at that phase of their development there is a strong will to feel a sense of belonging.

It bears thought that as a society, we need to revisit our efforts in safeguarding the language of our people in order to ensure that our youngsters are prepared to continue the journey towards sustainable development. With the proliferation of social media we might not be able to eradicate text language usage, however, we can slow its progression by making a conscious effort not to be a part of this new wave of short-handed communications method.

Wayne Campbell