SMS essay rings alarm bells for youth literacy
March 4 2003
Education experts have warned of the potentially damaging effect on literacy of mobile phone text messaging after a pupil handed in an essay written in text shorthand.
The 13-year-old girl submitted the essay to a teacher in a state secondary school in Scotland and explained that she found it "easier than standard English".
Her teacher said: "I could not believe what I was seeing. The page was riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not translate."
The teenager's essay began: "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kds FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc." 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."
The Scottish Qualifications Authority has expressed concern about the problem in its report on last year's Standard Grade exams, and revealed that "text messaging language was inappropriately used" in the English exam.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said a decline in standards of grammar and written language was partly linked to the craze.
"There must be rigorous efforts from all quarters of the education system to stamp out the use of texting as a form of written language so far as English study is concerned.
"There has been a trend in recent years to emphasise spoken English. Pupils think orally and write phonetically. You would be shocked at the numbers of senior secondary pupils who cannot distinguish between their and there. The problem is that there is a feeling in some schools that pupils' freedom of expression should not be inhibited."
Dr Cynthia McVey, a psychology lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, said texting was second nature to a generation of young people.
"They don't write letters, so sitting down to write or type an essay is unusual and difficult. They revert to what they feel comfortable with. Texting is attractive and uncomplicated."
The Telegraph, London