the wonderful land of oz
Net chat lingo leaves sum ppl at loss for words
Fri, Nov 15, 2002
By Chris Sorensen
TORONTO -- After 24 years as a public school teacher, Janice Manson thought she had seen it all.
Then one day she received a homework assignment from a high school student that contained bizarre abbreviations where nouns and verbs might have stood. People became "ppl." And "lol" seemed to mean laughing out loud.
"We've always had an issue with colloquialisms," says Manson, head of the English department at Erindale Secondary School in Mississauga. "But in the last four years it's like somebody threw a switch."
Manson says that the breezy abbreviated language of Internet chat rooms and instant messaging is invading high school English classrooms.
Students raised with computers and cellular phones are coming to class with a language of their own. In fact, some educators say, new technologies are influencing not just the way their students write, but the way they think.
"These kids have no distinction between (Internet) chatting and formal communication," says Manson. "It's a daily subject of discussion for us." Manson says the problem is particularly evident in Grades 9 and 10, where some students have mustered up the courage to tell teachers to get with the times and "start speaking their language." Increasingly, "their language" is a hybrid of written words and abbreviations.
The short, choppy style -- R U goin 2 Amy's 2nt? -- is most commonly used with instant messaging software, such as Microsoft's MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ, to speed up and personalize real-time conversations on-line.
"There's a limit to how many letters you can use, so if you write it in slang it's shorter," explains Evalyn Orias, 13, a Grade 8 student at Holy Family Catholic School in Toronto. She uses MSN Messenger to chat with friends while on-line and SMS (short messaging service) to fire off notes on her cell phone when there's no computer nearby.
Evalyn admits she has handed in homework sprinkled with chat-speak before, albeit without fully realizing it. "You just forget, and then the teacher gives it back and says it's wrong."
Evalyn isn't alone. A recent survey by Pollara and a University of Waterloo professor, conducted on behalf of Microsoft, found that 80 per cent of youths between the ages of 16 and 19 use some variation of instant messaging on their home computers. By comparison, only 31 per cent of people over the age of 35 use the function.
While the poll didn't survey youths under the age of 16, it found that 44 per cent of the 16-19 age group regularly used abbreviations like G2G (got to go) or TTYL (Talk to you later) in their messages. Manson says most students are quick to recognize the difference between chat-speak and essay composition once it's pointed out to them, but she still worries about the cumulative effect of the wired world on her students.
"They can't create the cause-and-effect structure of a sentence," she says. "You get fragments, you don't get whole thoughts any more.
"It's gone -- just gone -- in literally four years."
According to Doug Brent, a professor of communication and culture at the University of Calgary, the appearance of chat-room lingo in homework is just one side of a larger coin: the jumbled, click-and-run nature of the Internet.
Traditional academic skills rely heavily on linear thinking, Brent explains. Essays start with an introduction and end with a conclusion. Similarly, scientific experiments begin with a hypothesis and proceed through a set of well-defined and ordered steps.
It's a thought process developed over thousands of years, he continues. It began with the adoption of an alphabet and a written language, and blossomed with invention of printing. Education evolved into an ordered endeavour, in much the same way lines of type are arranged on the page of a textbook.
Not so on the Internet. Unlike books, there is no beginning or end to a Web page, since it can be hyperlinked to and from thousands of others. An interest in volcanic eruptions can morph with a couple of mouse clicks into the ecosystems of the Azores, a virtual boat tour of Sydney Harbour or the sounds of Japanese top-40 radio.
It's all learning, but it's also a lot of jumping around from place to place and from idea to idea. -- Toronto Star
i'm so bitterly disappointed. betty, i think it's time you leave now.