November 11, 2006

uv got 2 b jokin

The Voice of Tasmania reports that in New Zealand students will be allowed to text message their exams (unless they are English exams):

New Zealand's high school students will be able to use "text-speak" -- the mobile phone text message language beloved by teenagers -- in national exams this year.

Text-speak, a second language for thousands of teens, uses abbreviated words and phrases such as "txt" for "text", "lol" for "laughing out loud" or "lots of love," and "CU" for "see you".

The decision announced yesterday has already divided students and educators who fear it could damage the English language.

New Zealand's Qualifications Authority said it still strongly discourages students from using anything other than full English. However, credit will be given if the answer "clearly shows the required understanding," even if it contains text-speak. [...]

Confident that those grading papers would understand answers written in text-speak, Haque stressed that in some exams, including English -- where proper language is specifically required -- text abbreviations would be penalised. [...]

Critics said the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), the main qualification for high school students, would be degraded by allowing text-speak in exams.

High School principal Denis Pyatt said he wouldn't encourage students to use text abbreviations in exams -- but he was excited by the language development.

"I think text messaging is one of the most exciting things that has happened in a long time. It is another development in that wonderful thing we call the English language," he said.

I'm with Mr. Pyatt (though I don't feel quite as enthusiastic about text messaging per se). The Internet and mobile communication devices have had a tremendous impact on what we consider "written language", and English in particular is so much richer for these developments. So far, so good.

However, I don't quite see why it would be desirable to use the same variety of English in an extremely formal context (an exam) that one uses in a very informal context (small talk with your friends)? It's cool to be fluent in one variety, it's cooler - let alone more useful - to be fluent in two, IMHO.

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