If you’re going to roar, then use proper spelling!

| November 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Despite evidence that students’ spelling is generally poor and getting worse, some academics insist that mobile phone texting helps teens learn how to spell. Melissa Tungate, a teacher at Upper St Clair High School, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says she’s noticed a great deal of abbreviation and a good deal less punctuation since smartphones became more common. Tungate says these habits make it challenging to teach students how to write in a formal register. Moreover, students liken texting to a phone call rather than writing, and therefore tend not to believe that SMSing affects the clarity of their schoolwork.

Despite teachers’ misgivings, a new study conducted at Coventry University in the UK and published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, seems to suggest that texting can be good for spelling. One hundred and fourteen children aged nine and 10 were recruited from primary schools in the Midlands and split into two groups for the purposes of the study. One group received mobile phones to use for a 10- week period, during which their reading and spelling were monitored. They were given a series of reading, spelling and phonological awareness tests before and after the study. The other group served as the control.

Researchers found that the test group children scored better in reading and spelling after the 10 weeks were up. This was attributed to the “highly phonetic nature” of the abbreviations used by the students during texting and an increased alphabetic awareness. Said Professor Clare Wood, senior lecturer in the university’s psychology department: “We are now starting to see consistent evidence that children’s use of text message abbreviations has a positive impact on their spelling skills. There is no evidence that children’s language play when using mobile phones is damaging literacy development.”

And across the world, a new digital writing style called ‘roaring style’, or paoxiao ti, is all the rage at Peking University in China. Originally used to describe the performance style of Ma Ching-tao, a Chinese actor who shouts very loudly in almost every TV drama in which he features, the style first appeared in writings on Douban, a Chinese website providing user reviews and recommendations.

Chinese culture is well known for its emphasis on courtesy, so it’s to be expected that many lecturers find ‘roaring’ distasteful. Consider for yourself: a student complaining about a compulsory early morning fitness class, ‘roared’ on renren.com, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook: “You cannot afford to hurt a person who gets up at 6:00 am and shivers all over with cold for one hour!!!!!! Am I right!!! Am I right!!!!” Her classmates would say that ‘roaring’ is a safe way for young people to vent their frustrations, and that digital technologies are characterised by spontaneity and informality. Yet, says a professor, “I cannot accept the excessive use of exclamation marks, linguistic unsoundness, and abusive tone.”

Category: Summer 2012

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