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"L33T" Speak Invades Schools 1546

Masem writes "NYTimes reports on how common chat room/IM shortcuts (such as 'u' for you, 'r' for are, etc) are creeping into the classroom and homework assignments from those teenage kids that spend a significant amount of time in chat programs. This is giving the teachers headaches in trying to grade the assignments, much less understand them because of the techno-generation gap, and to try to prevent further abuse of the language, have begun penalizing students for using the net slang. Students sometimes don't even realize they use the chat room shorthand until it's pointed out to them, because that method of chatting has become second nature to them."
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"L33T" Speak Invades Schools

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  • Kids these days... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nitefallz ( 221624 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:53AM (#4289228)
    If they can't differentiate between being online and writing on paper for school on which they'll be graded on, what hope is there left for the world?
    • by Corporate Drone ( 316880 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:00PM (#4289305)
      yeah, yeah, yeah...

      same story, different decade...

      the world was going to go to hell in a handbasket when:

      * kids started using calculators instead of slide rules

      * kids started typing homework on PCs with spell checkers

      * kids started using the 'net as their research source, rather than the library

      really, now. it's an interesting sign of the times, but then again, there have always been kids who've used the vernacular in their writing, whether it be poor grammar, slang, or whatnot.

      • by Ctrl-Z ( 28806 ) <tim@ t i m c o l e m a> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:06PM (#4289389) Homepage Journal

        * kids started using calculators instead of slide rules

        * kids started typing homework on PCs with spell checkers

        * kids started using the 'net as their research source, rather than the library

        All of these things have degraded the efficacy of educating our children. Shouldn't teachers do their best to discourage netspeak in assignments?
        • by jpt.d ( 444929 ) <abfall@r o g e r s . c om> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:18PM (#4289526)
          I support the use of calculators for complex operations as long as you know how to do it for smaller operations. You should be able to do 40339 * 49392 without a calculator, but it would not be evil to after you already know how to do it.

          Spell checkers are not bad if they do not have to rely on them.

          Same with the net sources, must be a 'reliable' source.

          One thing that wasn't mentioned - contractions weren't allowed at one point, but now they most definately are.

          I do not think that netspeak should be allowed in assignments, but like it or not they will probably get into the language just like contractions have.
          • "I do not think that netspeak should be allowed in assignments,"

            Crap! Does anyone think it should be allowed? It's fine to use if you're constructing vernacular dialog (just like slang, creole, or Portuguese are all appropriate if employed in the proper situations) but if anybody thinks that people should be allowed to say "The @rabs r not evil just 'cause u don't 1ike them" in a social studies assignment, well, I'll just be packing up and moving to my bunker on the island now, thank-you-very-much.
          • 1,992,423,888

            Thanks for the challenge. I haven't done long multiplication in years. BTW, KCalc displays the answer as: 1.99242e+09.

      • by MORTAR_COMBAT! ( 589963 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:35PM (#4289715)
        oh boy...

        * kids started using calculators instead of slide rules

        And they lost the grasp of how arithmetic works, and the value of being able to do simple computation in their head. The use of a calculator is nearly effortless, and so why bother being able to subtract $121.49 from $349.41 in your head, when you can just punch it in a calculator. And we wonder why the number one reason for college dropout is bad credit, because they can't even keep track of 3-digit spending. Don't get me started on scientific calculators, which help students forget that 3+4*5 does not equal 35.

        * kids started typing homework on PCs with spell checkers

        And they lose the ability and preference to proofread the things they write. My wife asks me how to spell just about everything. She is incredibly brilliant, but has very poor spelling skills, because she has never had to remember how to apply spelling rules. Simple things like "I before E..." are lost when Word automagically corrects thier to their. And then those people show up on the web, where there is an obvious lack of spell checking. I am as guilty of this as the next person.

        * kids started using the 'net as their research source, rather than the library

        And they joined an entire generation of people who believe "If it is not on Google [], it does not exist". If I were truly clever, I would post a Latin Descartes-like translation of that phrase, but since it isn't on Google, it doesn't exist.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:10PM (#4290159)
          "In Googlis non est, ergo non est."

          Pie Jesu! You cannot render your thoughts into simple Latin? What is the modern education coming to, then?

        • * kids started using the 'net as their research source, rather than the library

          And they joined an entire generation of people who believe "If it is not on Google, it does not exist".

          This even affects professional journalists in training. See the recent story in the Columbia Journalism Review [].
        • by weird mehgny ( 549321 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:46PM (#4290581)
          And they lost the grasp of how arithmetic works, and the value of being able to do simple computation in their head. The use of a calculator is nearly effortless, and so why bother being able to subtract $121.49 from $349.41 in your head, when you can just punch it in a calculator.

          Maths isn't supposed to be about just doing calculation with numbers, it's supposed to concern problem solving. Humans can be creative - computers can calculate - we're better off cooperating!

          And we wonder why the number one reason for college dropout is bad credit, because they can't even keep track of 3-digit spending.

          Thinking economically isn't as much about numbers as it is about being able to prioritize things correctly. That's much more important.
      • by Alkaiser ( 114022 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:01PM (#4290057) Homepage
        I had a class where we were supposed to write a 5-page page paper on a controversial topic and take a side.

        One of the people that wrote in the class wrote a 3 paragraph rough draft that was half a page long.

        Paragraph 1 he said the V-chip was bad. Paragraph 2 he explains the V-chip, and in Paragraph 3 he says the V-Chip is good.

        I filled the whole back of his page explaining to him how this completely defeated the purpose of doing a rough draft, because I couldn't tell which side he wanted to take.

        Kids have far, far greater problems than throwing in occasional 'l33t speak into their writing. The general apathy towards school is the main problem with them being undeducated.
    • They can't differentiate between paper and online because schools now insist that homework be done on computers... I have to come up with a Word-equipped computer "soon", because my nephew spends most of his evenings away from the house doing "homework".

      It seems that teachers have lost their ability to read hand-written text, so everything must be on a printed sheet. Strange, I remember when submitting homework on a print-out was considered cheating!

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:08PM (#4289418) Homepage Journal
      If they can't differentiate between being online and writing on paper for school on which they'll be graded on, what hope is there left for the world?

      Which, of course, is the entire reason for having teachers grade papers. So the students can learn the difference.

      Different modes of expression are like tools. I can cite examples of apparently perfectly intelligent people who use a crescent wrench where I would use a hammer or a screwdriver where I would use a pry bar. It seems perfectly natural to use one tool vs another to me, because I was taught (in some cases by experience) which tool to use in each situation. Furthermore, the process of learning to use a hammer for tasks appropriate to a hammer hasn't impaired my ability to use a wrench for purposes appropriate to a wrench.

    • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:14PM (#4289478) Homepage Journal
      If they can't differentiate between being online and writing on paper for school on which they'll be graded on, what hope is there left for the world?

      Its true. Instead of smiling, I thought I heard one kid at the mall say: Colon! End Parenthese! Tilt head!
    • One good thing about having kids in chat rooms all the time is that they do (for the most part) learn to type really well.

      Just typing up a paper you can get by by just chicking pecking the keys, but if you are trying to keep up with an online conversation, you need to be quick on the keyboard.

      If nothing else kids learn to type fast... not necesarily in the standard 10-finger configuration, but still they are quick about it.
  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by wilburdg ( 178573 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:55AM (#4289232)
    /me thinks that's an interesting article.

    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

      by *xpenguin* ( 306001 )
      /me thinks that's an interesting article.

      Bah, all these modern clients suck.

      CTCP #channel: \001thinks that's an interesting article.\001
  • by Lamont ( 3347 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:55AM (#4289234)
    ...but that doesn't make it proper English. Save the 'l33t speek for cyberspace, learn how to speak the language properly in the classroom.

    It will help you in aspects of life that have nothing to do with computers (yes, they do exist!)

  • by SuperDuck ( 16035 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:55AM (#4289235)
    I was wondering why my spell checker was having such a hard time with the absence of punctuation and plethora of acronyms.

    When will they come out with M$ w3Rd 31337 ?
  • Good for teachers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amazing Quantum Man ( 458715 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:56AM (#4289243) Homepage
    teachers... have begun penalizing students for using the net slang

    Good! More power to them! School assignments should be written in grammatically correct English, using proper spelling. This requirement might be lifted for certain creative writing assignments, but in general, this is what schools should be doing.
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:04PM (#4289361)
      School assignments should be written in grammatically correct English, using proper spelling.

      So should Slashdot editorials, but how likely is that?
    • Silly Silly... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SPYvSPY ( 166790 )
      ...the only thing that matters is that ideas are accurately conveyed to the recipient. Classic English grammar is a convention for acheiving a standard mode of speech/text, but is not the be-all end-all of language. In fact, many grammar conventions are counter-intuitive and ineffective. For instance, there is a stupid rule against ending sentences with a preposition, although most people do it in speech without any problems in comprehension on the listener's part.
      • by itp ( 6424 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:01PM (#4290061)
        "What did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?"
      • by cje ( 33931 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:16PM (#4290232) Homepage
        For instance, there is a stupid rule against ending sentences with a preposition ..

        It seems there was this very bright but somewhat uncultured young man named Jethro who grew up on a farm in the rural South. Because he scored well on his SATs and graduated from his simple country high school at the top of his class, he was pleased to find himself accepted into Harvard University. On his first day on campus, he took a stroll to acquaint himself with his new surroundings. At one point he stopped and asked a typical, blue-blooded Harcard upperclassman for directions.

        "Excuse me, mister," Jethro asked with a Southern drawl, "but can you please tell me where the library is at?"

        "See here, young man," the upperclassman scoffed at him. "I don't know about what they do in East Hayseed, Tennessee, but here at Harvard one does not end a sentence with a preposition."

        "Oh," Jethro replied, "then allow me to rephrase the question: Where's the library at, asshole?"
      • Re:Silly Silly... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gma i l . c om> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:22PM (#4290310) Homepage

        ...the only thing that matters is that ideas are accurately conveyed to the recipient.

        I slightly disagree. It also matters that ideas are conveyed clearly to the intended audience. These kids need to learn that 31337-speak does not communicate clearly to the general public (or, perhaps more to the point, to their college-educated, non-technical teachers).

        In particular:

        • The use of phonetic substitutions for words ("R" for "are", "U" for "you", etc.) is distracting and annoying. This in and of itself is an impediment to clear communication, even if the meaning is fairly obvious to English-speakers.
        • The use of 31337 character substitutions ("4" for "A", etc.) means that the average reader has to slow down to correctly decypher the characters used. This is by definition unclear writing.
        • The excessive use of abbreviations such as IMO, IANAL, etc. can be distracting; and for some audiences (such as teachers) it is totally inappropriate (since they don't know what they mean).

        The question that these kids need to ask themselves when writing, for homework or for anything else, is, "Will my mom/dad/aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa understand what I'm writing here?"

        Strictly IMO. ;)

      • Re:Silly Silly... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:33PM (#4290421) Journal
        the only thing that matters is that ideas are accurately conveyed to the recipient.

        Ah, but you see, this is a false dilemma. "Conveying the ideas accurately" and "Proper use of English" are not independent, or diametrically opposed. Instead, they are fully congruent. The only way to conveying the widest spectrum of ideas accurately to the widest spectrum of recipients is to use proper English.

        To deny a child the ability to communicate in proper English is a horrible crime; it artificially limits their range of expression and the number of people they can communicate with, to the detriment of both the student and the potential recipients (using the naive model that "communication is good", which is good enough for these purposes).

        There are some stupid rules in English, but over time, those tend to be eliminated or chaged. (Re: The increasing acceptance of "logical quoting []" by academia.) Most of the rest are there for good reason, which is that they reduce the ambiguity inherent in the language.

        When a child is communicating with someone that they share a social circle with, they can communicate much more quickly by using conventions used by that social circle. In computing, we make heavy use of acronyms. In the IM environment, most people contract their speech a lot. The problem is that once the child leaves that environment, they can no longer do that and still "convey the ideas accurately to the recipient". We require a lingua fraca that everyone can be expected to know and communicate, or communication will degrade and finally break down. (This is not supposition; this is basically the mechanism by which new languages form. Look at the similarity of Spanish and French. Now look where those two countries are on a map. This is not a coincidence.) That lingua fraca is Classic English.

        By having this "Classic English", we restrict as much as possible the possible ambiguities and downright mysteries about the language. (For instance, remember the first time you saw "brb"? Did you really know what it meant? Would someone who has never used a computer have any clue at all?) This is a good thing.

        Classic English is and should continue to be the only acceptable mechanism of communication within the academic environment, with appropriate extensions as necessary for certain special-purpose uses (such as our vast library of acronyms). This is because Classic English is the only English that maximizes the ability to communicate the broadest selection of ideas accurately to the broadest selection of people. Anything else is a disservice to the student.
    • Re:Good for teachers (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! ( 33014 )
      I think much depends upon context.

      I agree completely if one is writing an academic essay. Such an essay (1) should be comprehensible to people outside your own clique and (2) should remain comprehensible over time. It is very useful to have formal academic speech evolve slowly over time, if the knowledge of past generations is not to become inaccessible, the way Chaucer is and Shakespear is becoming.

      On the other hand, if students are penalized because they are using IM speak in instant messages in the course of a project, that would be silly. Likewise, if they were writing fiction that included quoted instant message exchanges or IRC l33t, this would be an appropriate use of dialect and should not be penalized. I don't believe anyone is talking about doing this kind of thing, but this is worth watching, if only to make sure the purists don't get out of hand. Huckleberry Finn was banned on the basis that it debased the English language.
  • Simple really, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edgrale ( 216858 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:56AM (#4289245)
    Disclaimer: I haven't yet read the article.

    But if kids are using 'u' as you and 'r' as are you should fail the work they've done. That is the only way they are going to learn, even "better" perhaps would be to make them write the word 10 to a 100 times.
  • ez (Score:2, Funny)

    r u kding? txt msg is ez 2 ustnd.
  • by Anonymous Cowrad ( 571322 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:57AM (#4289260)
    It's pretty easy to switch vocabularies based on your situation. When I'm out with friends I cuss like a sailor, but I know not to do that in front of my boss. My vocabulary is contextual. How is it any different for these kids?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:57AM (#4289261)
    Should the teacher scrawl 0W3ND in big red marker across the paper?

    I could see making that mistake with you were typing a document, but if you actually write "r" instead of "are" in long-hand, you need to get the fuck out of the house more often.
  • As if conjunctions aren't enough anymore....
    Students really need to ask themselves, "what's your function..."

  • Cop out (Score:3, Interesting)

    by (trb001) ( 224998 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:58AM (#4289266) Homepage
    This is, at best, a cop out. When I was younger, I ran home everyday and got on BBS's. I used kewl, l8r, btw, etc, day in, day out. If these kids can't figure it out or they 'forget' (don't spell checkers catch this stuff?), too bad for them. I feel for the teachers who have to grade 100 papers and mark down for spelling cool with a k, but I would stand behind any teacher who did so.

  • by floppy ears ( 470810 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:58AM (#4289267) Homepage
    I work for a hedge fund, and I regularly get emails from a Managing Director that say things like "r u sure we should do that". No punctuation, no caps.
  • by th3walrus ( 191223 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:58AM (#4289268)
    D33r MrZ. butts3x0r
    U g0tz a k1d d4t 41n7 d01n h1z w3rK r1t3, b1zn0tch! h3 k33p t4lk1n L1k3 h3 41n7 g0tZ n0 c3ntz! WTF? U = p3n1s 1n U aZZ!

    sux0rz 2BU! h0p3 y3r br4t g3tz h1z NUTZ ch0ppa 0ff!

    -Mr. Demarcus
    History Department
  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:58AM (#4289269) Homepage
    My HS AP English teacher must have been way ahead of the curve. She instituted an automatic -10% penalty for "egregious" use of the english language. And there was no cap at 0% - as she put it, "yes, you can do so badly on a essay that I will take points off of your previous essays." One poor kid in the grade below me lost 40% in a single sentence (there's just something about using 'a' as a verb) - omg is was the funniest thing I ever saw.
    • by shepd ( 155729 ) <> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:11PM (#4289453) Homepage Journal
      Bah. 40% off for just one sentence?

      How about this one: At my HS, we were required to memorize Areopagitica (sp?) by Milton. I didn't. I remembered the last name (Milton). So he took about 5-10% off per missing word. After filling the entire margin with Xs (the guy had a very strong OCD) he gave me my final mark (drumroll): -378%
      Beat that!
    • My HS AP English teacher...

      Whenever the conversation turns to HS English teachers, I think back to 9th grade, and my evil HS English teacher, Mrs. Lee.

      She told me at the beginning of the year that I would most likely fail her class, "because you're an actor, Wil, and actors are usually stupid."

      I was aghast, because I'd always gotten extremely good grades in English and Creative Writing.

      She made good on her word, though. She would often take points off of my papers because of my "style," which she said was "terrible."

      It was galling to me that an English teacher could apply her own subjective judgement to something like "style," and use it as an excuse to give me bad grades. I vowed to someday exact my revenge by becoming a successful writer.

      Right now, I write for a TV show [], my website [], and I'm working on two books, both fictional, one semi-autobiographical. When they are published, I will dedicate them to Mrs. Lee.
  • by MonkeyMagic ( 118319 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @11:59AM (#4289296) Homepage
    A friend of mine, Rayner, who works at a University in England has also received a job application from an undergraduate that contained 'L33T' speak (well, Mobile Phone abbreviations). Think about it, this person had already GOT TO UNIVERSITY!

    Needless to say he told them to rewrite it (after getting a copy).
  • by interiot ( 50685 )
    Schools? Hell, my coworker uses such slang. He's a foreigner who must have learned chatroom-speak at the same time that he learned English, and must think it's acceptable in a proffessional workplace. Or maybe his teachers in college didn't beat him enough for using chatroom-speak on his homework.
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:00PM (#4289314)

    LOL is not a word
    LOL is not a word
    LOL is not a word
    LOL is not a word
    LOL is not a word
    LOL is not a word ...
  • by RQuinn ( 521500 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:01PM (#4289325)
    If there was ever a reason for corporal punishment in schools, 1337 speak would be it.
  • by PunchMonkey ( 261983 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:01PM (#4289326) Homepage
    Could someone please post the article here on Slashdot? I keep trying to read it on the NY Times website, but my eyes are continually drawn towards "Eve Brecker". And she's WHAT??? Only 15!?!??! Oh lord.....
  • Fail them -all-. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:02PM (#4289329) Homepage Journal
    "L33t" speak in all forms is lame, obnoxious, and childish unless used for sarcastic mocking of those who use it. I don't discuss things in depth with anyone who uses it as a primary pattern of writing, and usually consider those that use it to be unintelligent and foolish.

    The Internet is the greatest form of human communication ever developed, to cheapen it by using poor language out of a willful choice is just sad.

    If anyone talks like that to me offline, I will call them a fucking idiot. To their face.
  • by Denor ( 89982 ) <> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:03PM (#4289348) Homepage
    You know, the ones who play FPSes and are constantly yelling at each other! If they're going to stay 1337, they need to keep talking differently than others. One day, I'm going to log onto a quake server and see this:

    EliteFellow: Ah-ha! My aiming skills are unmatched. I have such prowess it is as though I own you.

    TricksterMan: Not so! Network latency has inhibited my natural reflexes!

    EliteFellow: You deserved your comeuppance, you have been jealously guarding the Quadruple Damage for some time now without moving elsewhere!

    I think that would scare me more than leetspeak, really.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:54PM (#4289977)
      At least do it right:

      Lanthorn: Fear and cower before my peerless accuracy, and precision, betwixt which you fell, a corpse, at my feet.

      Nest: Ai! The decided lack of random access memory on this server acts like a fetter upon my facile grace. Niether you nor your comrades-in-arms, shall besmirch my gleaming armor with foul bullets this time.

      Lanthorn: Cur! It is not your place to foul the air with your odious exhalations. You were poised stationary over the Quadruple Damage item, as poacher who uses bait lurks in the blind. I however on manuveur outflanked you and dispensed a rocket into your postierior.
  • by Brigadier ( 12956 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:03PM (#4289357)

    It cracks me up to think there are people who believe that just because something is birthed of the internet it is devine. Be it music piracy, netslang, software piracy. I remember when I was an IRC junky I had to re-learn how to spell when it came back to the real world. Not to sound like an old geezer but people need to speak plain english, or whatever language you may speak. For those quick to point out my mispellings kiss my a** i'm a recovering undernetoholic.
  • by Boone^ ( 151057 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:04PM (#4289360)
    A few low grades will certainly help them remember the difference between chatrooms and book reports!

    I hate to sound like I'm trying to protect the "King's English", but chatroom slang became such in an effort to be able to convey ideas through typing at the rate of talking, and it should be kept to chatrooms. The last thing we need is a generation (gee, I'm sounding old at 26) of kids hitting the Universities thinking "ur" is a valid re-contraction of "you're", and "u" can easily replace "you".
  • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:06PM (#4289385)
    I guess I'm too old (at 23), but I find that the abbreviations are pointless. When I send IMs, I often send phrases instead of sentances, but I don't abbreviate words. However, I do abbreviate phrases that have been used as such for over a decade. BRB for "be right back" predates IM, but "u" for you is just silly. It's harder to read, and learning to type would make it immaterial.

    Additionally, the traditional abbreviations were for "online phrases." When wat the last time you used "away from keyboard - AFK", "be right back - BRB", "laughing out loud" - LOL, "rolling on the floor laughing - ROTFL", etc., in a real life conversation?

    These abbreviations are more reasonable for phrases that would only be used in an online conversation. By that logic, "oic" is an acceptable abbreviation for "oh, I see", given that you only use it to convey an online emotion.

    I feel like the best thing would be for teachers to penalize, penalize heavy, and encourage students to STOP using online conventions online as well. If people would write in more reasonable English, communication would be easier.

    I find people nitpicking over typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors strange. However, none of us (unless we are slashdot editors *grin*) should STRIVE to butcher the language.

    Better command of the standard language improves communication. Has anyone whose ever held a job or been in an adult relationship ever thought "communication skills are over rated?" Most business and interpersonal problems stem from miscommunications, anything that helps that is a Good Thing.

  • by DaytonCIM ( 100144 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:07PM (#4289405) Homepage Journal
    This is giving the teachers headaches in trying to grade the assignments, much less understand them because of the techno-generation gap

    I disagree. My wife has no trouble marking down anyone who uses "U" instead of You or "R" instead of Are. Teachers face no dilemma here; students do.

    If you as a student cannot use proper grammar and spelling, then you are transferred to a remedial course. If you are still unable to use proper grammar and spelling, then further testing is completed in order to determine if you have a "learning disability."

    If you're lazy and refuse to use anything but your "chat-speak," then you'll fail English and High School... then no more chat room, because the only jobs open to you won't pay enough for you to afford an Internet connection.
  • by sedawkgrep ( 142682 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:07PM (#4289407)
    I thought for awhile on why someone wouldn't be able to realize they're typing this cyber-shorthand and the only thing I could think of was laziness. I mean, I personally couldn't see how on earth u could b substituting words without noticing it.

    But then it hit me. It isn't laziness, but the lack of any real typing skills. Shorthand is simply a result of trying to be more efficient in transmitting your thoughts. Repetition of anything will develop into normal practice. This is evident in the ubiquitous and pervasive slang we have.

    For me, I've been essentially a touch-typist since about the 9th grade and it only takes me a few hundredths of a second more to type YOU instead of U. My girlfriend however is a one-handed hunt and peck type. She also uses every short-hand substitute I've ever seen.

    Perhaps it should become a requirement to teach kids to touch-type at an earlier age. This would not only facilitate more productive computer use but should also help foster proper language use by obviating the need for this type of shorthand.


    • It isn't laziness, but the lack of any real typing skills

      It has to be this... on IRC and in games I can easily out-type anyone using "short hand" while I type full words.

      Once upon a time I was a very fast typist (>100 wpm), but it's gone down to probably around 70 wpm nowadays. Sure, that's still fast, but any touch typist should be able to type faster than I can if they aren't typing full words.

      Perhaps it should become a requirement to teach kids to touch-type at an earlier age

      It should probably be taught shortly after writing skills. Being able to type is just as important as being able to write nowadays. I know some people will blanch at that, but take the average office worker and compare how much they have to type into a computer versus how much they have to write down on a piece of paper.

      I just hope that schools have gotten out of the dark ages regarding touch typing. I recall going to a school competition around 1990. I entered into the typing competition since I knew I was a fast and accurate typist. I don't think I got more than a couple sentences done though -- I was definitely not expecting to have to deal with an electric typewriter that didn't even process line breaks properly. I spent more time being amazed at how backwards the competition was than I did actually typing.
  • by Bagheera ( 71311 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:10PM (#4289440) Homepage Journal
    . . . the reactions to this here. I've always seen 'l33t' speak as something akin to "Ebonics" - a form that's quite valid in it's own context, but that doesn't have a place in school in general, and English class in particular. Netspeak is, at best, a dialect. One that takes an exclusively written form, and is normaly reserved to certain compatible media.

    That teachers are taking a stand and slapping kids down for getting lazy (or stupid!) is a good sign. That most of the comments on /. I've read are supportive of the teachers is an even better sign.

    Imagine: /. as a bastion against the creeping death of the English language. Scary, is it not?

  • by akgoel ( 153089 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:12PM (#4289461) Homepage
    One of my kids from summer camp was IM'ing me and was using these alternate spellings. The problem was the alternate spelling of "come" :

    "will u cum to camp next year?"

    "please cum"

    Some things should be fixed before they go too far.
  • by MattC413 ( 248620 ) <MattC413@hotmail. c o m> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:12PM (#4289464)
    fail to understand, is that what you write, and how you write it, reflects very strongly upon one's self.

    For example, in a 'chat room' for Asheron's Call, where people would meet up when the server was not working, there would be many people using this 'leet speak', asking repeatedly for information. By simply using correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling, I could often get many of the people there to heed my words as if I was a person of authority. Some went so far as to ask how I became employed at Microsoft - I was just a regular user like them, but my choice to use English correctly made them assume that I was someone who knew what they were talking about.

    I try to encourage people to use the best spelling and grammar as they can when online. I just cannot 'respect' someone who can't be bothered to type "are" ('r') or "you" ('u') because they want to save themselves from typing two characters.

    Try the above sometime. Use your best grammar and spelling and notice how others react to you.

    (NOTE: I don't recommend this during intense-gaming situations.. "Help! I am currently in coordinates N7 being att... Uh oh, they have shot me with the... Aw, crap..")
  • My sister-in-law (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lunenburg ( 37393 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:13PM (#4289472) Homepage
    My sister-in-law is starting her second year at Boston University [], and I swear getting emails from her is like getting an email from Prince.

    "Hey! I got a msg 4u. It's gonna be 2-cool 4evr!!! :-)"

    I can't decide if that's more annoying than my sister and father, who still, in spite of my best efforts to educate them, haven't figured out the basics of the capslock key, new paragraphs, and punctuation in email.
  • by consumer ( 9588 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:15PM (#4289488)
    I don't see how "any hot F's want 2 chat?" could be construed as an essay.
  • CQ DX DE WB3IZT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gonarat ( 177568 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:16PM (#4289500)

    This may date me a wee bit, but I received my Amateur Radio License back in 1977, when I was 14. I had my novice ticket, so I was limited to CW (Morse Code) over the air. Since CW is a very slow way to communicate, there are many accepted abbreviations and codes. For example: FB OM NO QRM ON UR SIGNAL W9TACO DE WB3IZT Translation : Fine business old man, there is no natural interference on your signal. Your turn, W9TACO (the other person's Ham call), this is WB3IZT (my call).

    I would never had dreamed of writing any school work using "code speak" much less expected to get credit for it. "L33T 5P33K" is the same way -- it may be fine on IM or in chatrooms, but it does not belong on school work.

    BTW, I know W9TACO is not a valid call sign...if I need to explain it to you, forget it.

  • by ReadParse ( 38517 ) <`moc.wocynnuf' `ta' `nhoj'> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:23PM (#4289602) Homepage
    There should have been no headaches for teachers or hesitation in penalizing the students for using misspellings or "net slang". There is a difference between casual conversation and formal usage of your language, and schoolwork is of the latter category.

    Some of us don't even use that kind of slang on the internet. The truth is that it was created by people who either cannot type well or who type lazily. Those of us who understand that effective communication is important realize that typing in complete, correctly spelled, and well formed sentences with correct puncuation gets our ideas across in a more accurate way.

    Of course, that doesn't mean that we have no spelling or grammatical errors -- it simply means that we try to communicate our ideas using grammar that is correct. It also creates less confusion for us, because we don't have to remember in what context we're writing and "turn on" or "turn off" our grammar rules.

  • by dlur ( 518696 ) <dlur@iw . n et> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:23PM (#4289608) Homepage Journal
    I haven't had much of a problem as of yet with elite haX0r speak invading my real world, but I have had a problem with constantly typing 'look' and enter or 'score' and enter or 'inv' and enter while on ICQ or IRC. I guess playing time on Sojourn3 [] is catching up with me again.

    Oh well,
    who sort
    I guess that's what we get for living online these days.
  • by Restil ( 31903 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:26PM (#4289633) Homepage
    Not is the teenage/pre-teen world forming bad habits, but there are a lot of people in the world that pretty much learn english in chatrooms, and you better believe they consider this to be perfectly acceptable conversation language.

    I suppose, what bothers me the most is that it just looks and feels retarded. I remember thinking back to first grade, when we were all still learning how to spell. Sometimes it took a while for it to kick in that YOU is not spelled U just because they sound the same. Or SUN/SON, etc etc. With first graders, its an acceptable faux pas. To do so intentionally when you clearly know better is at the height of moronic. I understand the need/desire to abbreviate long words sometimes, but u for you, r for our/are and the extra retarded ur for your, just makes NO credible sense.

    And while sometimes I'm willing to write off this stuff as the juvenile swill from those "Damn teenagers", when I see people in their 20's+ doing it, it just makes me sick.

    Well, sick is perhaps too strong a word. It just makes me feel artifically intellectually superior to them, and I no longer want to spend my time conversing. Of course, there's always the chance that my assumptions are correct... and perhaps that explains it.

    Ok, rant done. Moderate as you will.

  • by Karen_Frito ( 91720 ) <> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:28PM (#4289653) Homepage
    Yes, language evolve. Yes, slang is an accepted part of casual English. Blah, blah, yakkity, smackitty, bring me a nice, big glass of OJ.

    However, in a formal setting - and by formal, I mean the workplace, any education setting (As a teacher, or as a student), or the media (newspaper, magazines, etc.), a standard basic form of the language is necessary so that the average person can understand what is being said or written.

    This means leaving out slang that specific to an activity, ethnic group or region. (IE: Netspeak, ebonics, or southern "American"). It also includes spelling, grammer and basic editing for clarity of thought.


    *Slashdot is -not- a formal setting, so put that red pen away now and stop correcting my spelling. I don't care enough to hit the spellchecker.

    *AVERAGE person. Not "Drooling moron", not "Ignormus who never bothered to pay attention in school.", and not "Non-speaker of the language."
  • by cybergibbons ( 554352 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:42PM (#4289812) Homepage
    If you are using a computer, it isn't hard to type the entire word. Things like r -> are (or possibly our sometimes) don't save any time on a keyboard. Quite often I see abbreviations that work out only 1 character less than the actual word.

    The other thing that comes hand in hand with the abbreviations are the lack of punctuation, capitals, or grammer. I have had entire e-mails with no capitals or full stops. It takes a long time to work out what is going on. And people claim they couldn't be bothered using the shift key (or whatever). Surely it takes more effort (if you ever learnt to type properly) to remember to not use the shift key?

    I have kicked people off a mailing list I administer because they don't make any sense for the reasons above. I don't reply fully to e-mails, I just tell them to send it again so that I can understand it.

    I also find that the people who send the mails like that tend to be quite stupid. I got an e-mail along the lines of:

    "do u knw abt undergorund rails"

    That was it. I asked what he meant by underground rails. The reply was like this:

    "undergorund rails in croydon"

    I again asked what he meant by underground rails in Croydon, as it is quite ambiguous, and the area very large. Response:

    "my dad told me"

    At this point, I wrote an e-mail explaining how much easier it would be for him to just type properly and explain what he meant. I think he wanted me to tell him all I knew about underground features in the area, but I couldn't be bothered because of his attitude.

    Yes, there is a place for them on phones and SMS as they aren't easy to type on (even with practice, you can't do 80wpm on a numeric pad). There is also a place for acronyms, such as LOL, BTW, BRB etc. because they actually save a lot of time.

    I can tell some bastard is going to send me SMS speak mails now just to wind me up...

  • Language change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:44PM (#4289843)
    One of the the things I have always loved about the English language is its democratic elitism. Permit me to explain. Some languages, such as French, actually have a body that decides formally what consitutes the language.

    English doesn't do that. English does have an elite that decides what is in the standard language, but that elite is the collection of writers, editors, and lexicographers who work with the language in the modes of cultural production. So, what Standard English is is decided by a literate elite, but membership in this literate elite is open to anyone based on merit.

    But that is not all. Beneath that "high brow" crowd who write literature and scan literature for new usage, there are hundreds of thousands of idiomatic communities speaking and using untold varieties of English. These are not "Standard English," but they are living, breathing, socially functional dialects of English. From time to time, a writer of genius emerges from such a community and brings new usage, idioms, and ways of speaking into that "staid and stuffy" elite. Those portions that speak in new ways, ways that other communities of English find useful, get taken up by the English speaking world at large. Then we find these new usages showing up both in other dialect communities, and in the elite world of "Standard English."

    Thus the world of Standard English is reactionary, conservative, and resistant to change, but this is as it should be. This is the force of stability that allows us to read (albeit with difficulty for some) six hundred year old Elizabethan English, like Shakespeare, and should allow English speakers six hundred years from now to read Toni Morrison or Neal Stephenson. At the same time, the vernacular throbs with creativity. Vibrant and electric new words, phrases and idioms crackle into being every day. Most are lost. Some appear only in the margins, in the throw away dialoge of television scripts, or in idiom spoken by characters in novels; mere markers in the history of the language. Some, however, merge into that conservative realm where they join such everyday poetry as "being blue," or "flight of stairs."

    I've studied only a few of the world's languages, but so far English is my one true love. Latin and French have their charms for me, but English owns my mind. I treasure both the stodgy elite (which anyone may join; all one must do is add to the great literature of the English language -- no problem!), and the endless, almost frantic, creativity of everyday speakers of English.

    Bearing in mind all of the foregoing, schools are not there to institutionalize the random creativity of English. That takes care of itself. They are there to be sure that we all have access to the stodgy collection of Standard English, so we may get our random creativity past the reactionary gatekeepers of the language. All good literature simultaneously reveres the language and subverts it. The most striking example, to me, is "Huckleberry Finn," the first novel with real American voices in it, as opposed to a bunch of Americans speaking more or less just like British speakers of English. Reverence and subversion.
    • Basic English (Score:4, Informative)

      by cpeterso ( 19082 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @04:08PM (#4292089) Homepage

      An interesting "fork" of the English language is Charles Ogden's Basic English []. Basic English is like a Esperanto for the real world. Ogden wanted to create a small, consistent, non-redundant subset of the English language that would help foreigners quickly adapt to an English-speaking country. His languages contains just 850 English words of use in everyday conversations. He claims that it takes seven years to learn polished English, seven months to learn Esperanto, and only one month to learn Basic English.

      I wish someone would do the same for other languages, such as Spanish. I guess you could just translate the Basic English dictionary to Spanish, but that does not address consistent grammatical rules like Ogden's book did when designing Basic English.

  • Language Migration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peatbakke ( 52079 ) <> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:02PM (#4290074) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I'm a big fan of the English language, and I think that it is a good idea to limit severe language deviations, particularly in a formal academic setting. I'm not going to endorse the substitution of 'r' and 'u' for 'are' and 'you', but simply make a point of the roll such things play in the evolution of a language.

    I'm an American, and I'm studying linguistics (amongst other things) in New Zealand. It's an interesting place to study linguistics, because New Zealand is one of the very few places (if not the only place) where there is a fairly complete aural record of the evolution from it's roots in the United Kingdom to it's modern form.

    Language is a hard target to pin down. Even in countries that try to limit linguistic migration (such as France) can't slow it down significantly, even in times without huge revolutions in communication. English is one of the fastest changing, and most diverse languages on the planet, and it only takes the space of about two generations for the "proper" high culture forms of the language to change significantly.

    A major shift in communication technology makes the changes occur much, much faster. The advent of radio made western urban American English the "proper" form of American English in the span of about five years. National broadcasters go through an enormous amount of training to develop that accent, as do politicians and other public figures. Listen to Clinton's speeches at the beginning and end of his term, or even how George Bush's (much ridiculed) accent has started to change.

    It's expected that the Internet will have the same effect on written languages that the radio had on spoken languages. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until the advent of the newspaper that English spelling (both American and British) became more or less standardized across large geographic regions.

    Ironically, the first place to hear about a significant change in language is in the editorial / opinion sections of news papers ... and it's never good news! Furthermore, it's always about primary and secondary school kids.

    Anyhow, I suspect that the practice of using 'oic' and 'l8r' in written English will expand dramatically over the next decade. Distasteful? Perhaps. But keep in mind that there's only one standard for language: the de facto standard.
  • {LOL} (Score:3, Funny)

    by A_Non_Moose ( 413034 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:49PM (#4290626) Homepage Journal
    I can see it now:

    Note on a students assignment:

    "Learn to FSCKING spell!!!1!11!".

    Oh, the irony.
  • by ChrisJones ( 23624 ) <> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:50PM (#4290627) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I find that l33t sp33k annoys the crap out of me. It's marginally acceptable in SMS messages, but really doesn't belong anywhere else imo. I don't even use it myself in SMS' because my phone as T9 input and I can type messages in pretty damn quickly.
    An interesting meme I wanted to throw down is that language is more than just communication, it's a formal way of constructing ideas not only for communication to others, but also in our own minds; Much in the way that mathematics has it's own language for the formulation and transmission of concepts.
    If common English starts to lose it's formal structure and we descend into some kind of Taxilinga, I will be worried that the ability to formalise and construct logical thought patterns will be lost to some people (I guess it probably already is lost to people who say 'like' and 'know what I'z sayin' 4 times a sentence ;)
    I'm hanging on to Queen's English until the day I die either way :)
  • by totallygeek ( 263191 ) <> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:56PM (#4290701) Homepage
    I was lucky to have a mother that not only stayed home with me when I was young, but also one that made learning fun. Her and her friends would record themselves reading books into a tape recorder. I would sit with the books and follow along while my mom helped me. After a while, she would have me try to read books to her. She also had me learn how to count, add and subtract using coins. Multiplication came next, and she made me learn, not just memorize, multiplication. By the time I hit kindergarten I knew how to read, write (no Big Chief for me, regular paper, regular pens), add and subtract (any size numbers, and understood negatives), multiply (for large numbers used repeating additions, times tables memorized to 13x13), and understood division. School was difficult because I was bored, but never stopped learning at home. By second grade (I remember because I switched schools) I knew how to type, write in cursive, could take even square roots, understood factoring, fractions, and was learning shorthand (my mother was from the old-school Du Pont typing and dictation pools). In school I would get into trouble for not paying attention, going too fast, etc.

    The long and short is that kids today are too easily learning things before the education system can get to them. There isn't a typing class until high school in most areas. Hell, I see many kids around seven that type 30+ wpm. They learn to read online via chat rooms, websites, and other methods before they are assigned Dick and Jane or Pug. Then, the intelligent children are asked to slow down so those without computers can catch up without feeling embarassment. This is sad, and it is why many Asian and European countries continually kick the US' ass in youth aptitude.

    Let the kids that excel do just that. While I think "net speak" should be counted as incorrect English for papers submitted, the knowledge the kid posesses to use the chat rooms, computer, etc., should be commended.

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @03:08PM (#4291459) Journal
    I can understand where these students are coming from.

    When I was in elementary school, I found a secret decoder wheel in a box of... (checks box on shelf) Lucky Charms. I got so used to using it that I began encoding all my homework without thinking about it. My teachers didn't mind so long as I provided them with a secret decoder wheel of their own.

    I was reading about encryption when I was in high school, and I would inadvertently switch into encoded mode, change the binary text to ASCII and write the corresponding binary string of numbers. Boy, was my English teacher mad when I turned in 20-page-long handwritten short essays... especially when I explained that the key was "mrs<omitted>sucks"

    Still, the unencoded version used proper spelling and grammar, so there wasn't much she could do about it -- except send me to the principal's office. If these kids want to protect their intellectual property by encoding it (in their case, they're using L33t speak), they should at least adhere to proper grammar and spelling.


  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @05:37PM (#4292913)
    Three things.

    1) Using numbers instead of letters is not a time saving technique. It's complicated and current keyboards make it a 'stretch'. (Those 3,4,5 and 7 keys are waaay off the 'home' row!) Indeed, 'leet' speak is used specifically to set people apart and stand one's turf in an age where being something apart from the establishment is really important. Though, it's so bloody juvenile! It's akin to spray painting walls with your 'tag' and by whatever a tattoo or piercing once denoted before such things became just another dipshit lemming affectation. (Hint: When more than 5% of the population adopt a trend, it slips from 'cool' to 'pathetic' really fast. Might as well wear a fucking Nike swish at this point. --Too bad those tattoos are permanent, eh?) Anyway, 'Leet' speak is about conveying attitude, and means nothing beyond that. Most of it will pass same as all that cute jargon from the fifties, daddio, --and the 1910's, what what?

    In any case, I don't think anybody uses 'leet' speak for real anymore anyway. It's turned into a square-ball's old fogey conversation topic, (yes, I'm talking to you). All the original users have moved right the fuck on.

    2) Sure, language is whatever written or spoken sequence is good for getting ideas across. So 'U' instead of 'You' is fine. It works. We all get it, so get over it. However, those who use such simplifications exclusively are doing themselves a disservice because. . .

    3) POWER is the invisible factor here.

    Twit-child who honestly doesn't know how to spell 'You', or who doesn't know when or why to capitalize, or who simply doesn't know how to construct words and sentences according to classic spelling and grammatical rules, is quite simply not going to get the respect s/he needs from the professional world in order to gain power in the higher rankings of society.

    The fact of the matter is that there are millions of people who, upon receiving any correspondence littered with 'new & improved' spellings, are going to judge the sender ignorant, lazy and kinda slow.

    The way things stand today, by knowing how to command written language with power and agility, one will ALWAYS have a much more successful time in dealing with banks, landlords, schools, government and businesses, -and all their fellow humans in any kind of written forum. Despite the logic behind new language validity, the impulse when one sees 'newspeak' is to think, "Fuck you, Loser." --And while you may want that on occassion, (there is power in everything), it's retarded not to be able to switch styles at a moment's notice. Why limit yourself?

    So learn your ABC's kids. If not, chances are somebody will do worse than hurt you, (which they'll certainly try to do as well!). --They'll laugh at you with hate while you sink.

    Lacking the facility to read and write properly is a one-way ticket to lower-class slavery.

    Fantastic Lad

  • So What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foqn1bo ( 519064 ) on Friday September 20, 2002 @03:43AM (#4295676)
    I believe that students should be taught a standarized form of English in the classroom. It's simply the best way to ensure effective communication with a wide range of people(assuming they too have learned this standard). That said, I think that the methods and methodologies of American educators need serious rethinking.

    I wonder if anyone reading Slashdot remembers the snafu over "Ebonics" from a number of years ago. Sometime in the 90's a school board in Oakland decided that it might be a good idea to recognize African American English(AAE)as a language spoken by a large percentage of its student body, and to educate teachers on how to effectively communicate with students. The Media(tm) had an uproar over it, and assailed them for trying to teach "Ebonics" as a foreign language. Much like Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was trying to "teach children Masturbation", but I digress. I don't remember much about the incident as a teen, but I do remember the overbearing attitudes of my white peers and neighbors, which seemed to center around something like

    "Why can't those damn black kids speak proper english like us?"

    Linguistically speaking, AAE is a structurally and intellectually valid language, featuring complex syntax, pronunciation and grammar rules just like any other. I don't have the time or the resources to go into it, so I'll point you here []. The truth of the matter is that the culturally and economically elite have been using standardized language to assert their hegemony over society for years, and the same true in America as it was in the initial triangle between Oxford, Cambridge and London. Students in America are teased, ridiculed and insulted for the use of valid dialects in ordinary speech. If you're a white American reader, chances are spectacular that you grew up speaking standard English in the home. Well, how convenient for you. The real point of an English class is not to get students speaking standard English natively or ordinarily, but simply to afford them the ability to use it when necessary (Higher education, job interviews, etc etc). The Oakland schoolboard's original idea was to make it easier for this to occur; teachers would be able to show comparisons between AAE and standard English, and help students learn what they need to change where and when.

    Instead our educators(and much of the slashdot readership)assert their supposed superiority by scoffing at the "idiocy" and "childishness" of non standard language features. So while I'm not going to make any claims that l33t is a full featured language, perhaps teachers should try teaching children what it is, why it exists, and how it differs from standard English. Encourage kids to learn and use a standard dialect for specific skills, but don't simply punish them as though their deliberately trying to pollute the language. Sometimes I think gradeschool needs basic linguistics classes just so kids can learn why their English teachers are being such assholes to them.

"The C Programming Language -- A language which combines the flexibility of assembly language with the power of assembly language."