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Does Text Can Speak A Problem?
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In a recent article that appeared in the New York Times, Richard Sterling, former director of the National Writing Project, suggests that "this is not a worrying issue at all" (qtd. in Lewin, par. 3). He asserts that the text speak that is increasingly entering students' academic writing need not be seen as problematic. This contention has given pause to teachers; in fact, his prediction that "capitalization will disappear" (Lewin, par. 5) sparked a passionate discussion among Cartier Santos Replica teacher consultants affiliated with the National Writing Project site at Rutgers University. From the comment of one teacher who felt "somewhat rattled" to the response from another, who wrote her message with playful use of capital letters (NWP Consultants), it is clear that teachers, and particularly teachers of writing, are reacting to the invasion of e-language into academic work.
Though Sterling's unconventional remarks certainly prompt debate, perhaps it is best to take his comments in light of a wider issue. What happens when students bring informal language into the classroom? Is text speak truly a problem, or is its occurrence, as Sterling suggests, an opportunity to teach students about the nature of language?
Researchers Rebecca S. Wheeler and Rachael Swords contend that "we make a lot of assumptions about the nature of language. . . . We assume that Standard English is Right with a capital R, and that anything else is improper, bad, incorrect, and fractured" . Their book Code-Switching: Teaching Standard English in Urban Classrooms outlines a plan that builds on students' existing knowledge by contrasting their home language, or the language they use unconsciously, with the Standard English that is appropriate in school. Their argument centers on the idea that a student's primary discourse might be different from academic language; however, this difference does not make the student's language deficient. The authors suggest that teaching students to navigate between home and school discourses, a task they call code-switching, privilege both languages.
Authors such as Wheeler and Swords have helped me to think about the nature of language, and each semester students in my English education courses consider, challenge, and debate traditional notions of acceptable language use. Our discussions about primary and secondary discourses often lead us to the somewhat ubiquitous text speak in the lives of adolescents today. Instant messaging programs, cell phone text messaging, and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook provide venues for communication that have become Breitling Replica commonplace. As the Pew study documents, students are using these technologies, and they are becoming, or perhaps have already become, fluent in the language associated with them. As digital natives who have had access to computer technology all of their lives, they often demonstrate in these arenas proficiencies that the adults in their lives lack. Perhaps teachers and parents should not look at this language as deficient; rather, we should embrace students' existing knowledge, as Wheeler and Swords suggest, and teach them to negotiate the technology-driven discourse within the confines of school language. Using text speak as an example of code-switching may acknowledge the legitimacy of the language while bringing its use to the conscious level, where students can choose to use it or not, depending on the context.
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