It’s a topic that’s been bandied about for the past few years, but until now, it’s all been conjecture. Does the simple act of texting, because it uses rudimentary language skills and homophones, cause young people develop poor grammar skills in their offline existence? Researchers from Penn State says yes, and have conducted a study to prove it. In their work, profiled on the University News Site, the research team made up of a host of academics, went into actual classrooms and tested grammar skills of children of different ages and also had them fill our surveys regarding how much texting they do. Not surprisingly, the more kids text, the worse their grammar skills become. In an unrelated case, other researchers found much the same thing in a Canadian study conducted by Waterloos University as reported by the Globe and Mail.
In both cases, the researchers say, it amounts to what kids come to see as normal. Before smartphones or texting, children learned most of their grammar lessons by both mimicking other people in their life, and though lessons given in school, or at home. Thus, kids not only learn to write as their parents or siblings do, they also learn to speak like them. With the advent of smartphones, what is considered normal for kids has changed. Not only do they send text messages to their friends or classmates, but they also do so with their parents or siblings, who quite often resort to truncated English to allow for less typing. The result, the research groups say, is young children come to see this new form of truncated English as the norm, and the stiff stuff taught in school as a foreign language. The result is plummeting grammar scores and little concern for its implications by parents.
In the PSU study, the researchers also found that as tweens text more, they quite often watch less television, spend less time speaking person to person and read less, which means they not only correspond most often in truncated English, but receive most of their communications that way as well.
AT WU, the researchers found that scores on grammar and reading tests are falling nationwide and that fewer and fewer children are able to pass the minimum levels required for graduation or college admittance. They also note that student’s skill with using punctuation has been falling steadily for the past five years. They note even bright, hardworking students who get A’s in other course, are falling short on grammar tests.
Both research teams conclude that unless something is done, the English language will cease to exist in its present form in just a few years.