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Flipping The Switch: Code-switching From Text Speak To Standard English

By Author: Arsenalo
Total Articles: 116

I am five years older than my brother, and those five years represents an even longer gap in terms of digital divide. When I was entering college, and the Internet and email were making their way to college campuses, my brother was an impressionable preteen. As a self-proclaimed "digital pioneer," during his high school years my brother regularly used Instant Messenger (IM) programs and the World Wide Web (WWW), tools that did not enter my daily repertoire until I was well into navigating the professional world. When text messaging became the new form of Cartier Replica communication, I asked him to explain it to me, and I added a text plan to my cell phone to more easily communicate with him and with colleagues and friends from his digital generation. At that time I, an English teacher by trade, felt compelled to eschew the abbreviated language of text speak. I felt that succumbing to the shortened "u" for "you" and writing in fragmented, seemingly unintelligible sentences was contributing to what my brother humorously calls the "downfall of the English language."

However, I quickly realized that most testers, and especially those who were sitting in my class-room as students, did not view text speak as a demon sent to destroy Standard English. Rather, these students—who are 10, 15, or even 20 years younger than I am—are truly digital natives who are fluent in the language that rules computers, video games, and the Internet (Prensky). They write, and perhaps even think, in this alternate speech.

Because digital language represents such a large part of the primary discourse of today's adolescents (Prensky), it is not surprising that the style of electronic communication is "seeping into their school-work" (Lewin, par. 1). According to a recent study published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in partnership with the College Board's National Commission on Writing, "the vast majority of teens have eagerly embraced written communication with their peers as they share messages on their social network pages, in emails and instant messages online, and through fast-paced thumb choreography on their cell phones" (Lenhart et al. i). The transfer of the informal, and seemingly abbreviated, style Breitling Replica Watches used in these contexts to their schoolwork, however, worries educators and parents alike. The report indicates that "a considerable number of educators and children's advocates are concerned that the quality of writing by young Americans is being degraded by their electronic communication"

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