Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting the message

The debate about young people's literacy and the impact of electronically-mediated communication rumbles on. Many commentators argue that the use of texting, instant messaging, social networking sites and online chat forums is leading to poorer spelling, less confidence in standard grammar and shorter attention spans. Others make the pint that research into such areas hasn't thrown up any real evidence to back up these claims.

We have covered the Coventry University research into texting elsewhere on this blog, but a new piece of research from Canada authored by Connie Varnhagen (and reported here) seems to offer support to the idea that good spellers in formal written tests are often the ones who use online chat more than their poor spelling counterparts. But does it mean that chatspeak is actually having a positive impact on spelling habits, or are better spellers just the ones who communicate more often in all forms of written or blended modes? See what you think:

Varnhagen's findings come from a class-based study that was recently published in Reading and Writing. A group of third-year psychology students proposed and designed a study to test whether new Simple Messaging Service, or SMS, language—also known as chatspeak—which refers to the abbreviations and slang commonly used when texting, emailing or chatting online, had an influence on students' spelling habits. The group surveyed roughly 40 students from ages 12 to 17. The participants were asked to save their instant messages for a week. At the end of the study, the participants completed a standardized spelling test.

"Kids who are good spellers [academically] are good spellers in instant messaging," she said. "And kids who are poor spellers in English class are poor spellers in instant messaging."

Does this prove anything? Your comments would be welcome...

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