Texting-addled young minds are losing their grip on the English language, according to a new study from Wake Forest. The research, which reveals a correlation between the use of SMS-abbreviations and poor grammar proficiency, comes as bitter sweet vindication for modern teachers who have to waste time decrypting the odd new language of teenagers. “It’s like you have two languages in your head,” admitted 8th-grader Audrey Pound. “Sometimes, the language you use for texting bleeds into the work you do for school.”
Indeed, it seems that texting speak has evolved into it’s own sophisticated language. “My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it’s a gr8 plc,” wrote one British student, in an essay composed entirely of texting gibberish (translation: My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It’s a great place.”) “I could not believe what I was seeing. The page was riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not translate,” explained the exasperated teacher who had to grade the paper.
The newest study, conducted by Drew Cingel of Wake Forest University and S. Shyam Sundar of Penn State University, found that students who self-reported using more texting abbreviation with their friends also performed worse on a grammar proficiency exam. Perhaps most importantly, it wasn’t texting itself, only the use of abbreviations (what the researchers called “adaptations”). “The results of this study lend support to a general negative relationship between text messaging and adolescent grammar skills,” they conclude.
Cyber-naysayers shouldn’t celebrate just yet: contradictory research has found that texting abbreviations can improve both spelling and reading proficiency. According to researchers Clare Wood and David Crystal, the cognitive muscle flexed while decoding text messages unwittingly helps students think about the properties of language.
So, here’s the lesson for parents and teachers: only take away the cell phone if children write an essay like they text to their friends.