Wednesday, April 21, 2010

gr8 2 c u @ twr

Last week, my 15-year-old son was asked by his grandmother how he’s doing in school.

“I’m doing … ” He stopped and though
t it over. Then, with a tiny smile in my direction, said, “I’m doing well.”

I was glad that he got it right but I was more impressed by the fact that he seemed to care that he got it right.

In most of his waking hours, his texting fingers fly over the miniature keyboard that is his phone. His messages – the average monthly number for a guy his age is 2,900 – are written, to our grown-up editorial eyes, in a barely decipherable language that seems to have been picked up by osmosis and certainly required no help from Berlitz.

Recently, I was talking to an old friend – an editor and language enforcer from the old strict school. “I’m going to say something that will really shock you,” he said. He went on to say that it was unlikely that we’d be able to somehow stem the tide of texting or reverse its widespread use and influence among the young. “We may have to learn to live with it,” he said.

I was way ahead of him. Our son has now reached high school, in French immersion since he was five years old. Each year, we’ve been told that adding a second language to his repertoire takes nothing away from his understanding and expansion of his first language but rather, adds another dimension and another level of comprehension to his communication skills.

If that’s the case (and I’ve always believed it to be so), why would the addition of a third language – the language of text – be something we lament and fear rather than something we support and embrace?

Communication is at the very top of the list of what we need to enhance our human relationships. Learning a new language while acknowledging the importance of clarity and correctness in our society’s dominant language can only be seen as a positive in our editorial world.