There was an e-mail going around the Internet not long ago that omitted the vowels from its message. Surprisingly, the email was easy to decipher, leaving some readers to wonder why we have all those extra letters.
As cellphones, instant messaging and chat become more ubiquitous, students have used this idea to develop a text shorthand that speeds up messaging. The News Journal reports that this text shorthand is leaking into essays written for school and that has some educators worried.
Students are using text shorthand for rough drafts of papers so often that New Zealand high school students are now allowed to use it on national exams, meaning they won't lose points if they replace words with popular abbreviations, such as 2 for "to" or "l8" for "late."
It's true that text shorthand is efficient and speedy. But some teachers are concerned that it will erode the proper usage of the language.
"If your audience in text messaging is your friends, then 'cb' for 'call back' is legitimate. But when students move into the career world, when they are doing their [state test] writing, they need to be taught that their audience is an educated reader and they are to use formal English," said Jeanne Qvarnstrom, supervisor of assessment for the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
"When the students go into the editor mode, it will highlight those phrases such as just the letter 'u' for 'you.' Students are shown that, for formal English, that is not acceptable.".
The use of text speak is so prevalent that for some students it's second nature.
"I am convinced that students don't even see the error; I think that text speak has become so common that it does not register in students' brains as being inappropriate in an academic paper," said teacher John Tanner. "It promotes a view of writing as something that does not require thoroughness or revision."
He encourages students to use abbreviations while taking notes but won't allow it on their papers.
New Zealand's Qualifications Authority does discourage students from using anything but full English, but its new rule says students may receive credit if an answer using text speak "clearly shows the required understanding."