IC u r worried about student literacy. Don't b

May 29, 2008

Students are not only developing their opposable thumbs by texting on mobile phones, they can now reassure their lecturers that they are also improving their literacy levels.

Linguistics expert David Crystal, honorary professor at Bangor University, used a recent public lecture at the university to dispel myths about text messaging, blamed by many commentators as heralding the end of literacy as we know it.

Professor Crystal, who was previously professor of linguistics at the University of Reading, has been researching the impact of texting.

Improving literacy means exposing oneself to as much reading and writing as possible, he said, with texting part of present-day linguistic richness. People text because they want to discover or send information.

He rubbished the view that young people use nothing but egregious abbreviations. "It's not CUL8R (see you later) all the time. Once they get past that stage, they talk about everything you and I might talk about and use perfectly standard words with standard spellings. People think abbreviations make up around 80 per cent of messages. But if you collect a whole pool, it's less than 10 per cent."

There was shocked media coverage a few years ago of a pupil who wrote an essay entirely in text-speak. It was a hoax, Professor Crystal said.

"Teachers say they don't see abbreviations. Examiners say you get the odd one or two with kids rushing, but the answer is basically no."

Adults consider text-speak to be revolutionary, but Professor Crystal said only the technology is. Most adults, he said, will remember puzzles such as "ICUR YY4ME" (I see you are too wise for me).

olga.wojtas@tsleducation.com.

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