Since I will hopefully be standing in front of an English class in the fall, the English language is on my mind quite a bit lately. The question that prevails is: Is the English language suffering or dying? Are we losing precision in our language? Will students know how to communicate properly in the coming years? My hopes are “I sure hope not,” “Hopefully it can be salvaged,” and “I sure will try to make sure they can.”
When I look back over my school days, I am thankful for the teachers I had over the years who taught me how to communicate properly and encouraged me to write. I am also thankful for my mom who shared words with me through a love of reading. I can’t say I always enjoyed those seemingly long grammar workbook assignments, nor did I enjoy giving speeches in front of the class, but both of those arduous tasks gave me skills that I hope to share with students in the future.
I have several friends who use “text talk” (thankfully most of them use it sparingly and still maintain correct spelling), and the other day I was looking at the phrase “lol”. Firstly, I must say this phrase is overused to the point that I’m not sure people really consider what it means before typing it. Of course, I may be no better because I use the emoticon 🙂 quite frequently myself. I just somehow doubt that the texter is laughing out loud in some moments. Regardless, I was looking at the set of letters and noticed it kind of looks like someone drowning and crying out for help.
Maybe I can help you see what I’m seeing.
It seems as if the “lol” is a cry of the language saying “Help me! I’m drowning!” No, I don’t think the language is a lost cause yet, but if we don’t send out some rescue boats very soon, the language as we know will be drowned by misspellings, text talk, and emoticons. Students will no long know how to use colorful language, in the sense of varying adjectives, to describe their thoughts. Instead, they will resort to “lol” instead of “that is hilarious” or “you tickle my funny bone”.
On a related note, I watched a TedTalk about the overuse of the words “good” and “bad”, which reminded me of elementary teachers who used to tell us “said is dead” in order to persuade us to vary the words to describe words that come out of someone’s mouth. The premise of this video is that there are so many other words we can use to describe our emotions, our food, our day, or any other way that we use “good” or “bad”. I found myself examining my words, and the words of people around me. How often does someone say “How are you?” and your response is “good.”? Do you describe your food as “good” or “bad”? I know there are other, more colorful words. Let’s use them! My theory is that by using better adjectives more conversation will be sparked and deeper connections will be built. Just imagine someone’s face when, instead of saying the dinner they cooked is “good,” you say it’s “superb”. What a compliment! Now I do agree that there are times when “good” and “bad” have their use. Things, situations, and people can be “good” or “bad”, just not all the time. Let’s liven up our language before it drowns.
These two small changes to the way we write and speak could make a difference in our communication skills, and they don’t even ask you to crack open a grammar book or think about commas. Do yourself a favor: buy a thesaurus and see what sort of precise colorful language you can use next time you send an e-mail or compose a text message. Surprise someone with the word “loquacious” or “splendid”.