Wednesday, March 05, 2008

influence of chat on spelling

I sent the following reply to a student who is studying this and asked the questions below...I have saved it mostly for my own benefit, as it has interesting ideas that are worth pursuing.

Dear ___,

I would accuse you of trying to do your homework for you, but I actually don't think much is written on chat and spelling, and it's a very interesting subject. You are welcome to use my comments to start you out.

When we spell in any language we use basically what we hear in our head (which comes from what we hear in general), what we have read, and other influences, like L1 and analogy with similar or similar-sounding words. Recently a student wrote "something" as "sth" and I recognized chat influence on his spelling.

In the past I have read "something" spelled as "sumthing" (someone who hears a lot, but doesn't read much), and "some thing" (someone who hears and reads some, but doesn't read enough, maybe, to know when it is one word). Someone who spells it "sth" is obviously reading chat logs more than anything else.

But a native speaker would learn "something" first and then get in the habit of using "sth" as a kind of shorthand code for "something"- it is a short version for use only in informal times and it is recoverable only by people who know it is a shorthand code. One who is encountering English for the first time has no way of knowing that "sth" should be pronounce "something" and in fact is spelled "something" in formal situations. Therefore there are two different ways chat spellings can influence L2 spelling: first, a student who is exposed to both spellings, but fails to recognize the difference between formal and informal, or forgets, and uses informal chat spelling; second, student who never hears or reads the formal version, who somehow learns the meaning of "sth" (how? he/she can't look it up very easily, though it is possible...)

You can see that chat can "interfere" with acquisition in the same way that one's native language does, though it's really a matter of what the acquirer is in the habit of reading and producing- learning is an ongoing thing, and one uses what one has at one's disposal. My own student has actually read and produced "something" many times correctly but has only recently found English chat, and through that has actually gotten a better handle on basic grammar, though he would be dismayed to know that using English chat spelling on a formal paragraph would be somewhat costly in an academic environment.

Hope that helps-
Tom L.

PS I would look up the following on google search

influence on L2 spelling
learning basic spelling
problems in spelling

>Dear sir
> I really thank you for your help and for these two websites....they're great
> my professor told me that I must concentrate on one aspect I chose spelling and what effect it while second language acquisition...{making chatting as one element not the only one....}
> what other elements effect spelling during L2 acquisition??
> I'm really anxious and worried because i don't know how to start..
>I am very interested in your project, and I believe that online chatting is good for L2
>acquisition, but I recognize that it is not a simple question.
>The advantages are:
>It makes you used to decoding English letters and sounds quickly
>It makes you familiar with a host of basic words and makes you more fluent on the
>sentence level
>It gives you friends that will allow you to have more extensive conversations
>Some chat rooms are rather formal and provide longer, better sentences to decode
>The disadvantages are:
>Chat slang is a language of its own, so you might become so accustomed to it that
>you lose the boundary of formal/informal
>Chat slang tends to be associated with young and reckless elements of society and
>might mark you if your chat slang finds its way into your formal papers
>I wish you luck in your project. Actually I'm interested in anything you find that
>might forward these arguments and that might help your project. I hope that I've
>helped. I myself believe in chat as useful and as almost certain part of our students'
(snip header)

>> I am a senior student at the english departement
>> and I am working on my gruaduating project about second language acquisition
>> especially concerned with { on-line chatting or hindrance for L2
>> i get your E-mail from the google search and I hope you can help me
>> please reply whether you can help or not.
>> thanks alot


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