Perhaps I’ve just reached ‘that age’ where I look at new age technology and slang with disdain. Perhaps, however, this new “Millennial Language” is a true detriment to one of the most evolved, efficient and productive languages across the globe – The English Language. A 2010 study did indeed determine that English is the most efficient language, encoding more information per syllable than any other language. We, as humans, possess a unique ability called reflexivity – the ability to use language to reflect upon language and its use. This ability is what allowed the English language to become such a complex and productive language.
Yet, this Millennial Language which consists of “Emoji Speak,” creative acronyms, slang and abbreviations is a movement towards a less evolved, less efficient, and less productive language. We are reverting to the times of the Ancient Egyptians; we are communicating with arbitrary symbols and less specific utterances.
Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, a time in which paper did not exist. Computers did not exist. Light bulbs did not exist. Smartphones most certainly did not exist. Egyptian hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements. The system utilized a total of about 1,000 distinct characters. Today, our youth manage to communicate with a similar ~2,000 emoji characters. Emoji speak has not yet fully eliminated the need for our Modern Alphabet. Users typically communicate with a series of acronyms, slang and abbreviations which rarely use the five most prominent letters in our language – vowels.
Whilst we may want to believe that Emoji Speak, texting acronyms, and the surplus of Millennial slang will remain loyal to our digital social communications, this is already becoming a distant memory. Every day, I see children filter this new form of language into their academic writing. The Millennial Language is the language they know. They're honestly unaware that some of these acronyms and language habits aren't a part of formal language. Why would they? We aren't born with language. We learn language from the people around us -- our family, or friends, teachers, and even the passer-bys.
Several years ago, we may have considered this Millennial language to be our second language. It was segregated and learned later in life. Today, however, the use of Emojis, abused acronyms and slang is negatively transferring into our native language. When students submit their writing sample as a part of the HEROES placement test, I see this form of language seep into their writing. I see it seeping into the writing of professionals when they write e-mail correspondence. The majority of my customers are highly educated. Yet, when they send me e-mails I often find myself struggling to decipher the almost coded messages. I frequently require the help of a "texting" dictionary or Urban Dictionary to decipher messages on social media. I felt as if I was intruding on a secret society when I began blogging for parents. The parenting community uses terms such as "DD14" to describe a "dear daughter, age 14)" or "WM" for working mom. Similarly, a teacher community utilizes its own 'lingo.' All in all, it leads to an ineffective means of communication in which language is easily misinterpreted.
Language must continue to evolve to be more productive and efficient. We must reverse this trend. By age four, a child knows an average of 4,000 words. So, why are we only using 2,000 characters in the majority of our communications? A Emoji pencil most certainly cannot take the place of every instance in which we wish to reference writing(past, present and future), writing implements, or a written work. An emoji of a "running man" most certainly cannot take the place of any instance in which we might reference anything of, or relating to, running -- both literally and figuratively.
This trend makes writing more difficult. It is no wonder that children struggle to write at length. Their working vocabulary is shrinking. Their creativity is halted by uncertainty. They're fishing for words they rarely use. They're feigning for spellings they have replaced with logographics. They're accustomed to the overextended simplicity of the Millennial Language.
We can make a change for the better. We must set the example for our children so that our language, the most efficient language across the globe, remains as such. Without the progression of language, communications will become increasingly more difficult. Progress, in all realms of life and society, will become more difficult.