The blog is somewhat related to the interesting perspective Melissa brought to texting last week. Since I have some slightly different issues and perspectives to share, I thought it would be better to post a new blog rather than comment.
A couple years ago, I was teaching paragraph writing to a low intermediate ESL class of adult newcomers from various countries. One of the students, who had been in Canada almost a year, had recently started the level and was just beginning to write compound sentences, so his assignment was to write a paragraph of about 75-100 words incorporating both simple and compound sentences. At the time, we had not covered register or style, but I was still quite taken aback when this Afghani male in his 30s emailed me the paragraph completely in textese, some of which I could not decipher. This learner was able to clearly read the paragraph to me though he had difficulty expressing his writing in a more formal style. This was the first and only time I had received a writing sample in textese although I occasionally receive writing with abbreviations and symbols. I had hoped to get some input from my colleagues, but this had never happened in any of their classes.
Discussing style and Giles’s accommodation theory, Van Herk (2012) does not mention writing, but I assume the theory could relate to knowing your audience in the sense of writing. Thus, did my student assume I would understand textese or did he not understand that this was an inappropriate style for his teacher or an assigned paragraph? Perhaps, this was the only type of writing he had done in English within his “community of practice.” If so, how did he learn it? More importantly, if this is the type of writing he and other second language (L2) learners need to communicate within their community, should texting be part of the L2 curriculum?
I did a preliminary search on linguistic databases; however, I could find little research on teaching texting in the classroom. Most of the research related to the effects of texting in the classroom (Dansieh, 2011; Irina, 2012; Wagner-Loera, 2016) or using texting as a tool to teach (Lopez Rua, 2007). On the other hand, there was an article discussing how teachers might use texting to create English puns (Lems, 2013) and a quick Google search offers many published lesson plans. Obviously, texting is being taught in some classes even though there seems to be little research to back it, so what is the rationale? There is no doubt that many teenagers all over the world text in their respective languages. This phenomenon seems to be partly replacing emailing, which is a form of writing often covered in L2 curricula, in which different writing registers and styles are covered. Stockwell (2007) broadly describes register as “a sort of social genre of linguistic usage” (p. 9). He further explains that changing the mode of an interaction also changes the register, where mode would refer to the spoken, written or emailed medium of communication. On the other hand, style refers to the level of formality (Stockwell, 2007; Van Herk, 2012). This leads to my final question: is texting a register, mode, style or something else?
Dansieh, S. A. (2011). SMS texting and its potential impacts on students’ written communication skills. International Journal of English Linguistics, 1(2), 222-229.
Irina, A. (2011, August 31-September 11). A cell phone in the classroom: A friend or a foe? Paper presented at the European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL).
Lems, K. (2013). Laughing all the way: Teaching english using puns. English Teaching Forum, 51(1), 26-33.
Lopez Rua, P. (2007). Teaching L2 vocabulary through SMS language: Some didactic guidelines. Estudios De Linguistica Inglesa Aplicada (ELIA), 7, 165-188.
Stockwell, P. (2007). Sociolinguistics: A resource book for students (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
Van Herk, G. (2012). What is sociolinguistics? Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
Wagner-Loera, D. (2016). The effects of texting and electronic language-switching on english as a second language (ESL) students’ performance and cognitive load: Side effects of mobile assisted language learning (MALL) (Order No. 10133396). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.