David Crystal debunks myths about texting and Twitter

This is an impressive talk by David Crystal . Here is a world renowned expert on the English language tackling the myths (as he sees it) of texting and Twitter corrupting the language and leading to a generation that cannot spell and finds it hard to express themselves in more than a few clipped sentences.

He shows that the use of abbreviations has actually been with us for a very long time and in fact the Victorians used to love making up parlour games which would use letters to stand for words… eg.,  2CU 2morrow! He also points out that far and away the largest proportion of texters and Twitterers are actually adults and not children! (people like me and probably the person reading this blog right now).

He also states that it is usually the best spellers who are the best at texting in his experience… they need to know what letters are missing in order to understand how to abbreviate them. He shows how dyslexic children/ adults have difficulty in texting as well as in expressing themselves in non-abbreviated language.

He tackles the problems of the decline of book reading and states that he is personally quite excited at the prospect of books being digitized and available from the internet. As he states the so-called digital native sees the digital environment as the primary resource and books as secondary but to those of us of an older generation who were brought up with books as our main resource for knowledge it is the other way around (although many of us are learning fast!).

As Professor Crystal points out texting and Twittering are really in their infancy. There is beginning to be an art-form of minimalist poetry that is coming from the abbreviated media. He also states that 140 characters can means quite long and complex sentences and therefore the idea that sentences need to be clipped and ungrammatical is not true.

This was a refreshing and wise talk by a man who is showing how he can live easily with the changes that new technology is bringing about and indeed see the potential in them and not the need to shout out that the language is under threat and that we are creating a generation who can only write in abbreviations and think in a robotic clipped manner.

Well done to the R.S.A. for continuing to provide such a wide range of excellent speakers who are willing to challenge modern myths and enthuse those of us who feel optimistic about the potential of new technology to transform our world and especially our education system.


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