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Study Sez Txt Msgs Make Kidz Gr8 Spellrz 375

Picknz writes "The Telegraph reports that researchers have found texting can improve literacy among pupils by giving them extra exposure to word composition outside the school day. According to the report, the association between spelling and text messaging may be explained by the 'highly phonetic nature' of the abbreviations used by children and the alphabetic awareness required for successfully decoding the words. 'It is also possible that textism use adds value because of the indirect way in which mobile phone use may be increasing children's exposure to print outside of school,' says the report. 'We are now starting to see consistent evidence that children's use of text message abbreviations has a positive impact on their spelling skills,' adds Professor Claire Wood. 'There is no evidence that children's language play when using mobile phones is damaging literacy development.'"
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Study Sez Txt Msgs Make Kidz Gr8 Spellrz

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  • Writing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:12AM (#34964406) Homepage Journal

    I work on several writing projects involving technology. A really fascinating study showed that when you ask most kids if they write for fun, most of them will say no. If you then ask them how many text / email / IM / blog / etc., nearly everyone will answer in the affirmative. Teens don't see these kinds of things as "writing". Once you sort of get through to them that it is, it's like a lightbulb turns on in their heads, and they suddenly start getting engaged in English.

    In other words, while it's really easy to mock texting (tweets especially annoy me), I think that if modern teachers learn to take advantage of all the writing teens are actually doing, we could see a revolution in English skills.

    • Re:Writing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bbqsrc ( 1441981 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:15AM (#34964420) Homepage
      It's certainly an under-appreciated art being able to fit a concise, well-developed argument into 140 characters, including a link and a bunch of tags.
    • I think tweets can help people learn to be more concise in their writing, but the benefits are greater if they don't use the usual 'texting' abbreviations. It's a great mental excercise to see if you can get the same thought across in fewer words or characters, or just more clearly

      Based on the number of mistakes with "then/than", "lose/loose", etc, I see from younger journalists and bloggers, I think spelling in general is getting worse, not better. I find it somewhat jarring when I actually see "lose" us
      • I'm not convinced it's getting worse, actually. It's just that we're now seeing a lot of stuff written by people who wouldn't have written anything before, or if they did we wouldn't have seen it. Writing with misspellings and homophone substitution is an improvement in literacy compared to not writing at all.
        • by Sique ( 173459 )

          That's one of the wonderful results of all those Instant-On-services.

          Never in history have so many people written so much and read that many lines of text on a regular base. Which is a good sign.

        • That may be, but I see mistakes by "professional" journalists and reporters in newspapers. We recently had the BBVA Compass Bowl played here in Birmingham. Sure enough, the headline called it "BVAA Compass Bowl". I'm sure the bank was not at all happy about that.

          A few years ago the same newspaper had a story on the front page about a typhoon and the large (72 point) headline called it a thypoon.

          Never depend on your computer's spell check function. Spelling takes practice and using your mind, not a computer'
        • It wasn't that long ago that homophone substitution as your main spelling mistake would qualify you to be a judge. However, when you start going beyond that and doing too much abbreviation you end up in a position where you may as well not be writing anything, because it's not really English anymore. And same goes for abbreviations in other languages. It might work well as a replacement for shorthand, but it isn't a reliable form of conveying information.
      • Re:Writing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:42AM (#34964546) Journal

        Based on the number of mistakes with "then/than", "lose/loose", etc, I see from younger journalists and bloggers, I think spelling in general is getting worse, not better.

        Way worse! Especially the last decade, many people don't even know that "then" and "than" are different words, that "ironic" doesn't mean "odd or coincidental", and how about expressions like "for all intensive purposes"? And don't get me started on "orientate"...

        TFA is nonsense, written by an uneducated fool.

        • Re:Writing (Score:5, Funny)

          by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:17AM (#34964672) Homepage

          It's a doggy dog world...

        • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )
          And "in the first instance" does not mean "first", damn it.
        • Also people writing "would of won" or "couldn't they of been more considerate?" and so on and so on... You can't throw a preposition randomly into a verb phrase...

        • by bledri ( 1283728 )

          ...especially the last decade, many people don't even know that "then" and "than" are different words...

          I know "then" and "than" are different words. I know the meanings of "there," "they're" and "their." Same with "through" and "threw." And yet sometimes I type the wrong one, presumably because I associate the sound of the word with what I'm typing. Having sinned myself, I try to cut people a little slack (though I also try to proofread what I write.)

          I blame Alanis Morissette for the confusion around irony. I hadn't heard "for all intensive purposes", but I'm not shocked. People use all sorts of expres

          • While I'm sure that there are lots of people that don't know the difference between any of those words...I gotta say that I mix them up for the same reason you give. A great deal of the typing process has been taken over by my hands and is almost completely subconscious. If I were writing it with a pencil I would never get it wrong...but if I am typing it I might mix them up because I am going so fast and so much is just my hands remembering patterns.
        • The technicalities you're talking about don't matter. What does matter is getting your point across, which requires an understanding of how people will react to what you write (such as predicting how somebody could misinterpret the words). You can only gain that ability through experience and feedback from your audience, and texting is giving today's kids more of that than ever before. They'll be great writers because writing is once again a tool that's actually useful for communicating with people they
        • by Artraze ( 600366 )

          The problem here is that, until the last decade, most people just didn't write. Historically, writing was actually something reserved for the "intellectually elite". Most people didn't go to college and write books or anything you might read (i.e. anything outside private correspondence). Instead, they worked in factories, contruction, etc., and if you mentioned 'then' v 'than' in a bar they'd throw you out for your "2 dollar words".
          So now you have all of the people in the would that "could care less" a

          • The problem is that back in the days when the "average" person didn't write, the average person did at least read what the above average person wrote. So at least they were receiving exposure to proper grammar, spelling, and so forth. Now, everyone is immersed in examples of poor quality writing of all types, in what will likely become a downward spiraling feedback loop.

            In fact, I would argue that there is more communication coming from people of below average writing skills, and using technology that is
        • Re:Writing (Score:5, Insightful)

          by locallyunscene ( 1000523 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:19PM (#34965392)

          Based on the number of mistakes with "then/than", "lose/loose", etc, I see from younger journalists and bloggers, I think spelling in general is getting worse, not better.

          Way worse! Especially the last decade, many people don't even know that "then" and "than" are different words, that "ironic" doesn't mean "odd or coincidental", and how about expressions like "for all intensive purposes"? And don't get me started on "orientate"... TFA is nonsense, written by an uneducated fool.

          This comment is a perfect example of why we study things that are "conventional wisdom". The above poster has already made up his mind that kids today are poorer spellers due to this "newfangled communication technology" because of conventional wisdom. However the study referenced in the article showed the exact opposite correlation. Kids that were given cellphones did better than kids in the control group who weren't given cell phones.

          If the study had shown that the kids with cellphones did worse I'm sure the above poster and others would have been whining about "Why do we need to test this? Everyone knows it's true already!" It's sad that the above poster can't accept evidence contrary to his world view and that there are enough moderators out there to think this is "+5 Insightful". I suspect I need to get off their lawn.

        • Re:Writing (Score:5, Informative)

          by milkmage ( 795746 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @01:12PM (#34965692)

          orientate is valid, it's British English (though often considered incorrect in the US)

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/orientate [reference.com] - variant of orient.

        • by 0137 ( 45586 )

          why is it a problem, though? how often does the transposition of 'then' and 'than' produce actual ambiguity in communication? the same goes for orient and orientate. likewise for "intensive purposes" and other phrases having fixed meaning, at least insofar as they are used in a casual (non-didactic) context.

          i think the reason you perceive things as having 'been better' because in the past is less of the population was actually committing thought to the written word. that they are now can only be to our mut

      • what difference do your spelling skills make if you use the wrong fucking word?

        that defin*A*tely irks the shit out of me.

        the misuse of to/too/two, their/they're/there, etc is the result of using sounds to spell words.. they all sound the same, therefore..

        According to the report, the association between spelling and text messaging may be explained by the “highly phonetic nature” of the abbreviations used by children and the alphabetic awareness required for successfully decoding the words.


    • Re:Writing (Score:5, Funny)

      by lxs ( 131946 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:44AM (#34964798)

      If you then ask them how many text / email / IM / blog / etc., nearly everyone will answer in the affirmative

      -Billy, how many texts do you send each day?


  • I call horseshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by echucker ( 570962 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:16AM (#34964430) Homepage
    Phonetics can also make horrible spellers. Our school had a phonetics program called ITA (a US variation on the UK ITA system [wikipedia.org])when I was in grade school. It made pretty good readers out of kids, but crappy spellers, because they got used to the conventions of the phonetics program, and not actual grammar / spelling rules. Years after getting out of the system, I still saw high school seniors in honors programs who couldn't spell worth a damn.
    • by Tridus ( 79566 )

      I was in a school that was taught word recognition and completely ignored phonetics. While that made for decent spelling, it also caused most of the students to be completely incapable of pronouncing any word they hadn't heard someone else say.

      I'm STILL trying to get past the damage that caused.

      • It's not possible to completely ignore phonetics, more likely it was mostly pushed to the back burner. It's not possible to learn to read and genuinely avoid phonetics to that degree. Because at some point you're going to have to know how to translate the written word into sounds and vice versa and to date nobody has ever figured out how to genuinely eliminate phonetics from the process. Some have managed to minimize it, but nobody has managed to completely eliminate it.
    • Actually they can spell just fine, just not the variety of English that we use. This is how language evolves.
    • Re:I call horseshit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kilrah_il ( 1692978 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:01AM (#34964884)

      On the flip side, I am now trying to learn sign language, and our teacher once told us that deaf people never make spelling mistakes, probably because they don't have the "phonetic bias". They just learn how a word should be written, with no connection to how it sounds. For them 'ph' and 'f' are entirely different and they never mix them up.

      • Your teacher lied to you.

        Deaf people have notoriously bad spelling. Case in point, here is a link to a "Yahoo Answers" question asking whether people thought deaf university students should be given leeway with spelling and grammar, when even foreign language students are not:
        http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090702074259AAKDeM3 [yahoo.com]

        NASA research into sub-vocalization showed that even deaf people sub-vocalize - that is they twitch muscles related to the words they are reading. Those deaf people who

    • I learned to read phonetically and I am one of the best spellers I know. You have to couple it with a great deal of reading (at least that worked in my case) because you need to train your brain with the shapes of the words as they are intended to be written. That gives you a set of patterns to use in later recognition as a fitness function to evaluate spelling. In order to abbreviate words well, you need to have some idea of the phonetics involved so that you can construct a short word which adequately res

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      English needs to be fixed. The language is a nightmare to spell in, none of the rules apply 100%, etc.

      • I remember in high school German class the teacher said something along the lines of 'as far as you guys are concerned...if I tell you something is a rule in terms of grammar or spelling...it always is. There are no exceptions'.

        I remember thinking....oh, that's nice.
    • I haven't had to worry about spelling since I was in grade school. Since then spell checkers have done my spelling for me. I can't be the only one. I can't think of an occasion where I would be using written text without using a computer. If this were true, then I would also assume that the writing would have to be in longhand, and trust me, my handwriting is much worse than my spelling.

    • The problem is that you need a bit of phonetics in order to read, but after you've had the basics, a proper whole language program is really the way to go. As in once you can decode the words enough to identify the word, then you're supposed to start reading real texts. As in text that is appropriate to that stage of development but real text. Basically pared down vocabulary and with mainly simple sentence constructs.

      One of the problems with education is that there's a lot of stuff being passed off as re
  • Sure. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zedrick ( 764028 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:17AM (#34964434)
    From TFA:

    "may be"

    Interesting. It's also possible that injecting people with heroin helps them stay away from drugs. And may be beating children with baseball bats gives them a wonderful childhood. Who knows?
    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

      "may be" "possible"

      That's just science speak, the same as how "Theory of Gravity" doesn't really mean that gravity is a nebulous theory concocted by some dude high on drugs. This study is based on a sample of the world's population, so there is a chance that there results aren't globally true. A scientist who claims "this IS true" without sampling each and every person in the world would be lying to you. However, it shouldn't be read as "we pulled these ideas out of our asses."

    • It's also possible that injecting people with heroin helps them stay away from drugs.

      Interestingly, the Swiss have discovered that injecting long-time heroin addicts with inexpensive prescription heroin is a pretty good way to get them off heroin, and to make their lives manageable until they get off heroin. The program has been so successful that several other countries have adopted it.

  • Anybody who texts should of known this already. Texting is not only addicting but educational!

  • Ebonics != Language (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bucc5062 ( 856482 ) <bucc5062.gmail@com> on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:27AM (#34964476)

    This is like saying Ebonics is a language.

    So now, all our great works will be reduced to 140 characters with no caps, no punctuation, and hacked up spelling. ee cummings was way ahead of his time.

    • This is like saying Ebonics is a language.

      So now, all our great works will be reduced to 140 characters with no caps, no punctuation, and hacked up spelling. ee cummings was way ahead of his time.

      I'd say if something allows communication between two or more individuals, it's a language. Or are you referring to the language/dialect distinction?

  • Statistics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Legion303 ( 97901 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:40AM (#34964544) Homepage

    And yet the rate of instances in which I want to punch these texting douchebags repeatedly in the face is trending upwards.

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:26AM (#34964714)
    My spelling must be great, because I lived through the 8.3 DOS filename days.
  • They really ought to include a text expansion feature in all IM and SMS programs. Then when the kid types gr8, it will appear as great in the actual message and there will be visual reinforcement of the correct spelling. It will also serve to reduce annoyance to people who hate txt speak. If the 140 char limitation is important in the application, then the messages can be transmitted as-is in txt-speak and translated automatically on the other side. Think of it as a primitive form of message compression
  • ...abstinence education may help curb teen pregnancies. Just ain't so.

  • We should change the spelling of words in our language so that they have (and keep) a connection with the pronounciation of said words.

    Convention over configuration, but for our language.

    • Tat is tru. Bat du ju sink eniwon will understend or bi ebl tu riid it if ju wrot it hau it is pronaunzd?

      We learned for the longest time how to write English with its rather weird way of noting down what sounds completely different, changing that now might cause more problems than it would solve. Believe me, as a German who usually writes EXACTLY how it's pronounced, with a few exceptions, English sure was an odd written language to learn... but it's still WAY closer to its pronunciation than French will ev

      • > Believe me, as a German who usually writes
        > EXACTLY how it's pronounced, with a few
        > exceptions, English sure was an odd written
        > language to learn..

        My opinion stems from my experience of learning dutch. Which is very similar to German. It was kind of an 'eureka' moment for me: a combination of the lax grammar from English and the spelling from dutch (or German).

        The dutch correct their spelling every year. Then they increase the complexity of the grammar to help placitate the grammar nazis.

  • you probably can't be more proud than the day when you find out your kid is a 1337 73xx70r...

  • by jav1231 ( 539129 )
    'There is no evidence that children's language play when using mobile phones is damaging literacy development.'"

    I give you...Facebook. A veritable cornucopia of evidence.
  • Depends on language (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Waldeinburg ( 737568 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:11AM (#34964932) Homepage
    I think it depends on the language. E.g. in Denmark we have a common joke that "written Norwegian [that is, Bokmål] is just Danish with spelling errors" because Norwegian words generally are spelled more in line with the phonetics of the language than it's the case in Danish. Furthermore, the vowels and consonants are flattened in the language of my generation which makes the connection to the "official spelling" of words less obvious. I don't see how the phonetic spelling creativity of text messaging is going to help then.
  • Remember those Dr. Seuss books? And how he played with words to find his rhymes? Text messages seem to work on a similar level. Shortening messages by using homonymous and homophonic letters and even numbers seem to do the same for our kids.

    It can work adversely too. For me, it sure did sometimes with the English language (being no native speaker). I often learn words by tracing its root and then building on it. Which led me to write appearantly instead of apparently (since appear, i.e. "how something appea

  • I spend a lot of time on automotive support forums. Obviously, people who ask for help have a vested interest in making their request as complete and readable as possible. They also have all the time, and all the characters, they want to do this. I'd say that up to 10% of requests, universally from younger posters, are incomprehensible. The result is they GET no help; people won't take the trouble to figure out what they mean. Or worse yet, they get incorrect advice through people not understanding them. I
    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:47PM (#34965546) Journal

      Young people will always be be young people. And old people will always be old people. One set has learned the rules of society and knowns that they exist to make things go smooth and the other does not. Young people also live in a world centered on them. They go to a school system that is all about them, are raised by parents who care for them, watch TV that is aimed at them. Surely the world must be about them!

      Well no. The full world, the world of adults is actually not about kids at all. Simple test, unless you are a parent or young, when are the school holidays in your region? Don't know? You did know when you were a kid. You will know when you are a parent. In fact in those circumstances the summer holiday is the center of your world. For the rest of adults? Sometime in the summer, maybe.

      Kids when dealing with the non-kid world find themselves suddenly surrounded by adults that really just don't fucking want to deal with them. Random adult X is not your mommy. So on such forums, people are not willing to first put the child at ease, deal with their temper tantrums or fragile ego's. The kid is not used to have to deal with people not at its beg and call and voila, the age gap is there. But this one has "always" been there, or at least since the modern child hood was invented by the Victorians.

      The generation gap is not just spelling. It is the simple attitude that has a teen first day on a temp job go to the sound system and put on his music... he just doesn't get that the pecking order changes from school to the workfloor. Oh some young kiddies will now protest, showing just how young and kidlike they are in the process.

      The people posting on your forums just haven't learned yet that if you want to interact with other people it helps to follow the common unspoken rules. But this is their age and selfcenteredness, not their spelling skills at work. Plenty of older people who are self-centered start a forum post with "HELP please" in the subject, forcing anyone to open the post to see what the actual problem is... bad spelling? No, just not being able to do the mental work that other people have their own lives and so if you want their help you ought to make that as smooth a process as possible.

      Just watch the number of people here who don't use the subject box to announce the content of their post making it more work to determine if its worth to open it if it hasn't been modded up yet.

      As people grow up, and this is more then gaining years, they learn that other people have their own lives and that by communicating effectively, they can have favors done more easily because ultimately it is less work. Kids don't just have the social skills yet. That is why they are kids.

      A simple example? I use paragraphs to make the text easier to read. Because I want YOU to read my posts, so I make it easy to do so. Read slashdot and see if you can find posts that are just one big block of text. Clearly such posters did NOT consider their audience capability to read the post comfortably. Not out of malice, just that knowing other people are human beings with their own feelings is not something that comes naturally to the young or self-centered.

  • Although it's easiest to learn to speak English and the reason for this is the limited number of sounds - the last I read was 33 in the language. What drives people nuts is how screwy our rules of spelling and grammar are as they are derived from multiple sources, such as Welsh, Latin, French, German, Norman/Saxon and god only knows where else.

    What I would like to see is people forget the damn spelling rules and simply spell words as the sound as that allows people to concentrate on getting ideas across ins

  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:55PM (#34965584)

    If a generation Z kid tries to communicate with me in their language I simply won't understand them. I do understand that their language serves a purpose in terms of manual data compression. As another poster pointed out you could just have the phone translate it into English after it has been transmitted. Yet it does isolate them from the rest of the world who doesn't speak their language. I highly doubt it helps their English skills in any way because what they are practicing is not English.

    I doubt that text messaging in txt language is in itself enough to make a good speller into a bad speller, but you are not going to find that out in a 10 week study. I think the argument is that children are getting too much of the wrong kind of language practice. They are getting a huge amount of practice in a language which does not exist outside of their group. It may be true that the txters who are poor spellers may have been poor spellers even without mommy's cell phone, and it's not like they would have had any writing practice outside of school anyway. But the txt spelling is constantly being reinforced. It would be very surprising indeed if this had no repercussions whatsoever outside of cell phone use.

    I personally believe that spelling is not the problem. Nowadays nearly everything written is written on a computer and computers have spell checkers. It's like being able to do mathematics in your head versus needing a calculator. Technology has made English spelling into a skill that is borderline archaic. And the fact that English is so absurdly non-phonetic also cannot be ignored. Maybe the language should gradually be changed to be spelled more like Spanish for instance. That would be moving in the direction of logic and progress. Txt language moves in exactly the opposite direction toward greater complexity in spelling. It is even more difficult to learn. Aside from the unnecessarily complicated spelling, the English language is one of the easiest in the world to learn. I have little doubt that that is the most important reason that it has replaced French as the international language, even though French is a much more beautiful language.

    I think the biggest problem with all the txting is that the 140 character limit in nearly all of their communication may encourage a short attention span when it comes to reading, listening, and maybe all forms of communication. Yes, it encourages brevity/conciseness as well, but at the expense of genuine literacy. It is simply not possible to communicate complex and subtle concepts in less than 140 characters. If you zone out any time a "wall of text" exceeds a few sentences you are going to have a lot of trouble understanding complex and subtle ideas. And if you limit your outgoing communications to no more than a few sentences at a time you are going to severely limit the complexity and subtlety of ideas that you can express. Eventually this laziness, lack of patience, and expectation that all information be received in easily digestible little pieces can become habitual and you won't realize that anything is wrong with the way you are processing information.

  • When I was a kid, I'd read for fun. That was my "exposure to print outside of school." Don't kids read anymore?
    • Many do not. I work in schools, and have teenage nieces and nephews. I spoke to a 13-year old just this week who claimed never to have read a non-school book.

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