Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Changing the language

Recently I met an English teacher from my high school. During school, he always encouraged us to write good English.  But despite his many good efforts, we never took English seriously.  But as soon as we entered Kathmandu, we not only realised that our English is very poor but also the value a good grasp of the English language has inbuilding a career in any field. I was wondering how our juniors at the school had been doing in English, so I asked him about it. The teacher dashed his head with hand in response and said, “Mobile phones have ruined their English.”

He was referring to the SMS language—abbreviated words commonly used through SMS, social networking sites or blogs which he thinks is killing students’ writing skills and affecting their English vocabulary. “They even write such meaningless words on their exam papers,” he said, “it is dissolution of the English language in the name of SMS languages.”

On our cell phones, we frequently write short messages using words that do not exist in the dictionary. Words like ‘omg, ur, rite, jpt, thx...’ are shorthand versions of longer English words or phrases. Though they make typing text messages easier, their frequent use in writing has become a habit and has spoiled the proper use of the language.

We frequently write ‘ur’ instead of ‘your’, ‘n’ instead of ‘and’, ‘2’ for ‘to’ or ‘too’, ‘4’ for ‘for’, etc. The need to limit the message under a certain number of characters has left us leaving out punctuation and using abbreviations. The use of such words is not always recognised by the general public. For instance, ‘cul’ (call u later) was new for me and took a minute to understand. Words are misspelled just to make them fit or spelled phonetically merely to make communication easier and appropriate for the size each SMS message is capable of transmitting. Such writing constrictions diminish the ability to use proper grammar and spelling.  As my teacher said, he was very surprised to see words like cu2moro, ttyl, coz, tc, even in students of younger grades. 

An English professor from the US wrote in her blog that even her post-graduate students often wrote words like ‘brot’, for ‘brought’ and ‘bcz’ for ‘because’ and ‘de’ for ‘they’, etc. Such behaviour can only be understood if the receiver is already familiar with this vocabulary register, but all may not easily understand these words’ original meaning. It is a matter of concern for teachers and parents as they face difficulty in comprehending the intended meaning. Even those who are familiar with this abbreviated language fall victim to confusion as this language can vary from context to context and from individual to individual. But even for those who are concerned about the spread of the misuse of the English language, they too are slowly and unknowingly taking on this new emerging language as it has been more common.
Originally published at The Kathmandu Post: Click here for the e-paper view


  1. this is a genuine comment as a reader and i hope u would not take it otherwise. i dont think the context you used in this article is relevent to the example you gave i.e a nepali society. let me tell you brother the SMS culture we have in nepal is nowhere near what you mentioned here. not atleast as much as to deteriorate a good English because we never have one. we are poor in english because we were taught with poor pedagogy. thats it. i dont think its fare to blame that RS.1 sms for ruining our never so good english.

    to me this looks like a forcefully edited english article with some added desi masala in short a copied article.


  2. i thought this blog would be enjoyable after reading my friends status in FB.

    sorry not so impressive