Yesterday a friend called me, all excited because she had gotten a new cell phone, and her granddaughter had taught her how to text, and how to use some of the symbols and abbreviated words to "communicate." I asked her why she was excited about this, and she said, "Because now I can talk to my grandkids just like their friends do!" And this made her happy. I'm afraid my response was somewhat less than enthusiastic.
Do you realize that of all man's creations, those of words are the greatest? Without words, we would have no conversation, no books, no schools, no education. Words...or put another way, language...are man's greatest accomplishment and the absolute core of any society. Without language, there is nothing.
However, what are we doing to our children and the future of our society today? How many letters do you or your kids actually hand write? Uh huh. Now, compare that to the number of text messages you AND your kids send to each other, friends, other family members, even...business associates. Astronomical difference? I bet.
Some would say, But texting IS language, just with a whole new set of words. OK, wht doz tht mn? Do u no wht ech prsn is tkng abt? To me, it's not only a "whole new set of words" it is a whole different language. And one I don't care to learn.
Words express emotion, interest, love, peace, anger, caring, friendship, hate, jealousy, knowledge, wisdom, opinion, desire, and a whole world of medical, technical and electronic terminology, without which our modern world would be in chaos.
What are we teaching our children about the beauty of words and the intricies of language when we allow them to communicate almost totally by texting on their cell phones? Aren't we teaching them that words aren't important, and that the kind of communication that language allows us isn't necessary?
Oh, I know. Some of you are going to say "Well, when we were kids we had our ways of talking to each other, too." Yes, we did, but it was a kids' phase, and we all grew out of it. Today's youth is not growing out of this abbreviated way of speaking...especially when grandparents start using the same method and think its great; when business men and women take their iPhones everywhere with them and do business in this same type of "communication;" when parents give 6 and 7 year olds cell phones to they can keep track of them.
Words don't mean much in today's society. Given a choice between reading a book and playing a video game, most children will opt for the game. They don't want to sit quietly long enough to read because they are no longer encouraged to learn new words, to test the waters with verbalizations that use sentences and phrases they've not used before. What does that say about parents as educators? After all, parents start teaching their children words and language long before teachers get involved in school.
And speaking of school...okay, we weren't but we are now...how much pure writing and learning vocabulary is done in schools today? When I was in school...hmm, well, that was so long ago it doesn't have any relevance to today...when my children were in school, they used to have long essays to write, book reports, summaries of history or Civics lessons. They were always given extra credit for using new words that they had not learned in class...either words looked up in a dictionary, or similar words that they found by using a Thesaurus. These kinds of writings, and the use of words, started in the 3rd grade, and continued through high school. I remember quite vividly one of a friend's grandchildren, who was in the 6th grade, asking me what a Thesaurus was...and her younger brother, in the 3rd grade, indignantly informing her that it was a kind of dinosaur, of course!
From this kind of verbal interaction, which happened during this past summer, I think one can safely assume that such things as dictionaries and thesauruses are not considered necessary accouterments in today's educational system.
I think it is sad to know that kids today, regardless of age, know little or nothing about the beauty of words, and the wondrous ideas that can be shaped and formed from using a myriad of different words. What about similies, metaphors and allegories? Do kids today really understand those concepts and how to use them? How can you put a metaphor into a text message? I don't think I would want to see the result !
What words do you think are the most beautiful in the English language? Here are some of my favorites:
Serendipity........something that happens by chance, something that is unexpected but fortuitus.
Ephemeral....something that is fleeting, transient
Quintessential......the ultimate, the essence of the essence
And then there is Mellifluous, something that is sweet sounding or rich in tone. Don't the words above meet that particular definition? How many of our kids do you suppose know those words..or, for that matter, have ever even heard them?
Words...they make up human communication. They make up the essential core of our society. They are what we, as writers, love to use, to see, to speak, to learn, to hear, and to try to captivate with in our writing. We must not let words be lost in the in the technological/electronic revolution we're living in today.
What are your thoughts? Let me know.