Doğaş University’s 1st International Conference: Turning Challenges into Opportunities is in full swing and the first plenary of the Day was David Crystal. He spoke on Language on the Internet: The Ultimate Challenge and Opportunity. In this post I want to summarize his talk, and intersperse it some data from my online research conducted with Adam J. Simpson and Ekrem Simsek in March 2011. (See foot note below for the whole research document).
According to David Crystal the ‘ultimate challenge’ for educators today is the Internet. He drew our attention to the fact that the Internet is not doubling every six month, or even every week. This doubling in size happens every 12 hours. The varied content and the enormity of the Internet actually creates an addiction. This is echoed by our research with learners:
Question to Learners about LAPTOP USE Learners’ Answers
Question to Learners about this addiction Learner’s answers
The biggest challenge for teachers according to Crystal is helping learners handle this addiction. For educators the difficulty he highlighted was how to keep up with all the changes and the speed of these change,as we do not know what will happen next. However, he speculated that the spoken language will be the next big thing on the Net. Encouragingly he also stated that we can’t ignore these changes as educators. Instead, we need to rethink our mind set:
From our research we found that learners also do not want us to ignore these changes:
Questions to the Learners: The Learner’s answer
The NEW MOTO
He stated that the new moto among young people is “the screen is central and books are marginal”, but here he offered a warning note for educators not fall into the trap of believing two important myths despite the media:
Myth 1: that young people never read.
He explained that they are always reading texts or material on the NET.
Myth 2: That Language has been ‘radically changed’ by the Internet
He offered very clear evidence to support that there has not been radical change:
David Crystal’s evidence:
1-Abbreviations: Despite dictionaries of 600,000 abbreviations for the net now only about 100 new abbreviations that have entered the English Language such as LOL. Why? Because the important part of language is intelligibility. Many users couldn’t understand the abbreviations so they didn’t catch on. Many abbreviations have also been historically present in the English Language. He gave the example of Queen Victoria 200 years ago playing word games with her family and using CU.
2-New words: Only about 4000-5000 new words such as to blog, blogging
He was clear that there we no radical grammatical changes and only minor variaitons:
Pluralization : This exhibits the biggest change : Films vs Filmz
He outlined that this usage of ‘Z’ often referred to illegal usage. Films are the legal ones and filmz are the illegal downloads. As an aside does this mean that Sharonzspace is an illegal site.)))
The main changes highlighted by David Crystal:
1-The nature of written texts:
a) no longer stay in a permanent place: Text is always moving-Text never used to move and now it has become dynamically interactive
b) Hyper Text Links-are a fundamental structure of text, footnoting and cross referencing in ways never possible before and learners need to learn how many Hyper links are too little in text and how many are too much.
c) Framing: We can now cut and paste. The example he gave was of an email where some one writes to you and you want to respond to the middle of the email. Now you copy the message and just reply in the middle as opposed to replying to the whole mail.
2-The nature of spoken communicaiton:
Unlike spoken language there is no simultaneous feedback, where the listener is actively involved in the conversation through nodding their head or through the use of interjections to show that they are listening. While emailing, tweeting, texting, messaging the person is alone. Even in Skype there is a lag in simultaneous feedback although it is getting closer.
3-The biggest change is punctuation as opposed to traditional text.
It is now OK in texting and emailing to:
a) use excessive punctuation::
Example given: Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Example Given: No capitalization at all
The net is starting to eliminate some of the horrible spelling irregularities:
i.e Rhubarb….about 6 years ago there were only 20 instances of Rhubarb spelt without a ‘h’ now this year there are three million.
Although in all of this he advised we exercise caution in reaching hasty conclusions about change. The Internet is only 20 years old and it is too soon to make any concrete statements about change.
Advice for Educators
David Crystal offered two areas of advice both during his plenary and then at the forum later:
Advice one: Embrace the change.
Use the Internet in the classroom to help learners navigate these changes and challenges of Internet communication.
Advice two: A translation activity:
At the forum he gave an example of an activity where learners are given some information and they have change it into the form of a blog entry, a tweet or an email.
TO SEE HOW TO ACCEPT THIS CHALLENGE SEE THE 2nd POST RELATED TO THIS TALK:
Reference: Simpson, A. J., Simsek, E., Turner, S. (2011): A chat with the learners-Tuning in 31/03/2011