Grammar 4eva: Has ‘techspeak’ made time-honoured language skills irrelevant in the Internet age?
“hi, can u pls clarify smthng 4 me?” read the email that landed in Karen McCrindle’s inbox a few years ago from a prospective student she had never met. “say i wnt to take intnl devt study w ur prgm. do i apply to bth prgms or just 1 n which 1 would it B. evry help is appresh8d. thk u.”
Though she’s far from a grammar schoolmarm, the linguistics professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough (who was also head of the school’s journalism program at the time) couldn’t help but wince. But then, after reading it two or three times to make sure she understood, Prof. McCrindle was intrigued.
“I found the email fascinating from a linguistic point of view but I also felt that it was out of place, even rude,” she said. It was fascinating in that the student had probably just sent a text to a friend before emailing her, she said, and somehow didn’t find it necessary to change tack. It was rude, of course, in that it showed absolutely no regard for her position of authority.
Proper grammar and spelling seemed so far off this student’s radar that the guideposts of language might as well have been relics of the past, at least in his mind — dusty old rules that simply don’t apply in this age of constant communication fueled by endlessly improving technology. Perhaps he was never taught.
Maybe students don’t even need to be taught the ins and outs of spelling and grammar, a growing number of educators say, their musings adding to a long-running battle over the relevance of time-honoured language skills in the rapidly changing Internet age. (Illustration: National Post)