So refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one enjoying online variations as a great new playground for linguistic innovation and play! Awesome interview with a linguist who rejoices (as most of us linguists do) in language variations and change.
My blurb about Internet language (re-purposed from 2 yrs ago)
Linguistic speculations on Internet language
These days the variation of English I’m most fascinated with are the online variations. There are all sorts of new and flexible ways to use spelling, punctuation, abbreviations, grammar, vocabulary, morphemes….
It’s a great new language playground to mess about in!! I think it’s the rebel in me: I love seeing how everyone is breaking all the rules and getting away with it. Count me in! I rejoice in texting talk (ttyl, LOL—once I mashed the keyboard with my fist and send the letter blob to a colleague who uses lots of texting acronyms—took him half an hour of searching to realize I’d just sent him random letters). I love tweeting talk (RT@someoneyouknow), I love using “i” and “u,” adding “z” to wordz, writing “thru” defiantly, and isn’t it gr8 2 use #s, 2?
Purist writer colleagues shudder. They point to the degradation of the language and bemoan the fate of the English language: everyone is writing like first graders or worse and getting away with it! It is all so sick and wrong.
My theory on the future of the English language
Here’s what I say to calm them down: maybe we could potentially end up with two written variations of English:
High English (formal, academic English with set rules and guidelines for professional and international text)
Common English (informal, “improper” but commonly accepted English with evolving and flexible rules for everyday communication)
The fact that my purist friends know the High English well would be beneficial for them. They’d be in demand as fewer and fewer people would be able to write in High English, but it would be necessary for professional, international documents.
The Common English would not be accepted as the academic or business standard due the constant changes in its use. It would, however, be the most used variation for casual, online communication where you don’t have to worry about conventions or rules—you just need to get your message across.
What do you think?
Will we ever see teachers accepting essays about “wat i did @ summr vctn”?
I’ve heard people enrolled in language classes complain that they are never going to succeed because they are “too old to learn a second language.” It’s a good excuse, but no one is really too old to learn another language.
The effect of age on langugage learning is a hotly debated linguistic topic (the Critical Period Hypothesis, Optimal Age Theory, Maturation Theory). These theories explore whether or not the ability to learn a second language diminishes after puberty. Results are mixed and provide ongoing debate in linguistic circles. There does seem to be, however, a distinct advantage for children learners in terms of achieving native-like pronunciation. Adults have also been able to achieve native-like pronunciation, just not as consistently as a group. There are other aspects of language learning, such as overt language instruction, where adults and teens excel over children, particularly in the initial stages.
Another consideration for adult learners is personality. Linguistic studies on which personality traits correspond to good language learning seem to indicate that risk-takers and those with a high tolerance for ambiguity are better at learning a new language. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a good language learner if you are a careful person and need to understand everything. It just means that learning a new language is easier for those who are comfortable with guesswork, split second decisions, looking silly and making mistakes (all important aspects of learning another language).
To those who use age as a reason not to learn a language, it should be noted that as we age, learning a second language, even in a classroom setting, can be extremely beneficial. It’s a great way to keep the mind active. A classroom setting for language learning does require memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules, tasks that involve short-term memory. This may not be comfortable for adults in their senior years who experience short-term memory loss. Nonetheless, senios who did choose to take a second language reported that the felt studying a language improved their enjoyment of life and their self confidence.
So don’t give up on language learning if you are 30+. For adults, learning a language is indeed about the A word: but it is more likely that the word is “Attitude,” rather than “Age.”
Call it the “learning paradox”: the more you struggle and even fail while you’re trying to master new information, the better you’re likely to recall and apply that information later. The learning paradox is at the heart of “productive failure,” a phenomenon identified by Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore […]
Kapur has identified three conditions that promote this kind of beneficial struggle.
First, choose problems to work on that “challenge but do not frustrate.”
Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what they’re doing.
Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.
And to those students and workers who protest this tough-love teaching style: you’ll thank me later.
The author has carefully colour-coded quotes to show the origins of each word in a number of different quotes. Old English is quite common, but there’s the occasional Old Norse word here and there as well as some Old French. Etymologists, rejoice!
I have heard many teachers with good intentions tell immigrants that they need to speak English at home to their child so the child’s English and school work will improve. This is not good advice from a linguistic and cultural point of view.
While it is true that the key to success in a new country is language, children will learn a second language best if they have a firm foundation in a first language and a first cultural identity. From there, they can transfer knowledge to the new language and the new culture. It is important to have a strong foundation in a first language and a first culture so that what is learned about the new language and culture can be built upon that foundation. This creates true bilingualism where both languages are strong and both cultures and cultural identities are valued.
If a parent’s proficiency level in English is not good, it is far better for them to give their children the gift of a solid first language by speaking and reading the native language to them in all its richness and complexity. This language richness (the idioms, the rhetorical devices, the proverbs, the vocabulary, clichés) is the foundation upon which the child’s knowledge of a second language can grow. A rich first language will help the child succeed far better than trying to speak to him or her in not-so-perfect English.
Essentially, the important point to remember is that language learning is all about INPUT. You’ve heard of “garbage in = garbage out” for computers? The same is true in learning a second language.
If you have good quality language going in, you’ll have good quality language coming out. So, if poor quality language input (broken English without idioms, expressions, proverbs, cliches) is going in, the child will not have a good first language foundation to build upon.
In a past life, I taught many children of Mexican immigrants. These children’s parents spoke to them in a mix of poor English and Spanish. These children had extremely low English skills although it was, for many of them, their native language. Socially, they had difficulty as well because they didn’t really belong to either culture. Healthy bilingualism means there is a strong identity with both cultures and both languages.
The final lesson: Don’t listen to teachers who say immigrants must speak English to their children at home. It is a myth that this helps a child succeed in school and life. Give children the gift of true bilingualism by speaking, reading and writing in the first language and showing the value and richness of that language and culture.
The European Commission have just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase-in plan that would be known as “EuroEnglish”: —
In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favor of the “k”. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with the “f”. This will make words like “fotograf” 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent “e“‘s in the language is disgracful, and they should go away. By the 4th yar, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.
During ze fifz year, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaiining “ou” and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer. ZE DREM VIL FINALI KUM TRU!