Once upon a time, people communicated using words and complete sentences. But times have changed thanks to the Internet. The norm these days is to communicate using hashtags, emoticons and abbreviations. While the English language certainly is changing, not all of the changes are necessarily bad.
Platforms are Driving the Change
Have a five minute conversation (online or in person) with any teenager and you’ll get a quick glimpse into the future of the English language. Younger generations, or digital natives, communicate in LOLs, NBDs, and slews of expressive emoticons. Those who didn’t grow up with these forms of communication view the changes as lazy, destructive and dangerous.
But, are the linguistic changes driven by the digital age dangerous, or are they simply the modern, evolved version of shorthand? The true danger may not lie so much in the evolved language, but in the gap of understanding between digital natives and older generations.
An Increase in Miscommunication
Those who didn’t grow up with smartphones, tablets and computers or who don’t use these technologies to communicate on a regular basis often have trouble understanding what’s being said and usually don’t see the point of it all. View it as the equivalent between a language’s native speaker and someone who knows just a few words.
This gap in understanding often leads to miscommunication. Another concern regarding the communication changes driven by digital natives is how these changes should be approached in the workplace. Is it acceptable to email your boss using digital shorthand and emoticons? Many would say no. Establishing workplace communication standards is essential to avoid miscommunication between younger and older workers.
Just as the original version of shorthand served a specific purpose, today’s used of acronyms, emoticons and other digitally-spawned forms of language are argued to increase the efficiency of communication. Series of words and even full sentences are now commonly reduced to a few letters and pictures.
And Hashtags don’t just shorten language. They connect people online who are interested in communicating about specific topics. Sure, the original English language may be dying (or dead), but the changes aren’t without their benefits.
Connecting with Other Cultures
According to How the Internet is Changing Language, the digital era may be changing (or destroying) the English language, but it also allows cultures to connect with unprecedented ways. If you want to learn another language, you can easily access a wealth of online tutorials, or even find a native speaker online to be your tutor.
And linguistic barriers between, say, someone in Germany and someone in America, aren’t as troublesome as they once were. Online translation tools and other online programs simplify the process of cross-cultural communication. Those dreaded emoticons also come in handy for overcoming language barriers online. When used effectively, these tools can lead to the sharing of ideas that, just a few years ago, was nearly impossible.
The times they are a changin’ and so is the English language. The digital revolution is changing the meaning of certain words, is creating a new wave of shorthand and is connecting cultures in unprecedented ways. Some of these changes are arguably beneficial while others, not so much.