Monday, February 12, 2007

Students use IM-lingo in essays -

There's a new one of these articles every once in a while. I keep posting them because they are great conversation starters with teachers, particularly language teachers.

I like to refer to this as "chatese", but IM-lingo is pretty good too. This dialect of English (at this point you might be able to refer to it as a pidgin at this point, I'd love to hear ideas on which it is) is widely "spoken" and could be considered a functional dialect for millions of text messaging (SMS) and instant messaging software.

This, however, frustrates some teachers to no end. They see it as a corruption of the language and yet a sign of sloth the permeates the younger generation.

I would respectfully disagree. I think that these same teachers forget their own (or at least others in their generation) use of non-standard forms of the language (primarily slang). These have always leaked into school assignments, much to the chagrin of teachers.

In all of these cases, teachers have eventually come to the conclusion that they can't convince students not to use the language, but they could teach them that there are appropriate times to use different language forms. For example, using "standard English" in a chat room will mark you as an outsider, with all the negative associations that accompany the designation. In the same vein, using chatese in academic, business, or other formal writing will mark the author as immature, naive, and even disrespectful.

I'll take your opinions if you'd like to post a comment.


John said...

Hi Dan, interesting article. I see a problem with chatese, or whatever it is they call it, if the student is learning English as a second language. If they don't already have a good command of the language, then it's not good. They might confuse this with good, proper English. If the student's L1 is English, and they know what they are doing is not correct, but just for fun, than I think it's ok. That's an important distinction. Have you taught any students in Korea that you caught trying to do this? Well, to relate to this article, C U later. And, have a good time with your family this weekend, hopefully you can take a little break.

Dan said...

Hi John,

Yep, I've run into this in Korea. All it takes is a, "These types of expressions are not acceptable in academic or professional communications." That usually takes care of it. However, my students are all adults and that helps.

In the end, it's just a matter of teaching students about what is acceptable where. I don't see that this will conflict/interfer with learning English. If you take a look at chat language, it is really just abbreviations. I think that these can actually help students to acquire a broad range of vocabulary by giving them references to connect to.


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Mary Spaeth said...

Hi Dan,
I agree that there is a time and place for all kinds of language. And I agree that a teacher can certainly help students to understand what language works when and where (though I suspect that most students already know). The challenge that some teachers face is creating balances where enough non-colloquial language is spoken and written so that a student actually CAN reproduce, by choice, that which may be appropriate for various situations.

Just as one might have a tough time breaking basic habits of the dreaded and boring "you know" or "like", students also will find it difficult un-do the slang they practice IF they haven't practiced other forms of language as well.

Those students who can "do it all" typically excell in school as well as in other social settings.

Dan said...

Hi Mary,

There's no doubt that it's difficult to address this with students who are immersed in the culture.

My viewpoint is that it is a reality that we have to deal with. We are not going to stop them from using this sort of chat language. Our only option is to address it in the schools. If we don't do it there, it won't get done. If you think that too many college students sign off an email to their professor with cul8r (see you later), just imagine what this will be like when the current middle and high school students matriculate.


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