Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The power of illiteracy

This is my first post, I'm in the process of moving house so it will be fairly short and rushed, so my apologies...

I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald the other day: It posits a change to conventional spelling based on mobile phones and the internet leading to simplified spelling conventions.

I understand that Professor Crystal is no fan of convention, but even he notes in the article that "Kids have got to realise that in this day and age, standard English spelling is an absolute criterion of an educated background". This is what worries me the most. As someone who works in a professional role, I'm encountering an increasing number of yopung people whom I supervise and interact with who have poor spelling and poor grammar. I don't blame just modern technology on this phenomenon (educational practices should shoulder a fair bit of blame), but what worries me is the growth in language "haves" and "have-nots". I've no objection to using abbreviations and text speak when appropriate, but if people don't also have the ability to write and speak in 'proper' English, then the reality is that they will be discriminated against. I for one can't use a lawyer, PR person or assistant who can't speak correct English. It would be a shame to see an underclass develop of people in a diglossic society where some can only write txtspk and others English.


  1. The same is happening in Spain, where I live. And the sad thing is that is doesn't just circumscribe to teenagers, but also to apparently educated people, who make the most obvious spelling mistakes. Even in the administration or on the captions on TV news!!

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