Monday, June 7, 2004

Yes, spelling matters - rly (really)


r u lyk rly jk? If you can read that, thank a kid.

What looks like a computer program run amok to an adult makes perfectly good sense to any 12-year-old. In fact, their parents' mystification with their instant-messaging language leaves most adolescents lol (laughing out loud).

Last week an Indiana 14-year-old fought his way past "sumpsimus" and "serpiginous" to claim the National Spelling Bee championship by correctly spelling "autochthonous." He broke into tears. It made us feel the same way. In the past, such mastery of the quixotic English language would have been a feat, but in 2004 - omg (oh, my gosh!) - it borders on miraculous.

On the school front, adequate spelling is still a battle fought and, more often than not, won. Because it's included on the Ohio Proficiency Tests, Kentucky writing portfolios and next year's Ohio Graduation Test, we can rest assured that it will still have a place in the classroom.

But on the home front - rofl (rolling on the floor laughing). From the moment even very young children drop their backpack and hit the computer after school, messages fly with lightning speed and the loosiest-goosiest of spelling. Generally, only two rules apply to the blitzkrieg communication known as instant messaging: If it can be misspelled or abbreviated, it is. Complete sentences and correct punctuation are used on an emergency basis only - perhaps pbm (parent behind me - a warning that a parent is looking over the young writer's shoulder).

Rly (really), kids' spelling proclivities come under attack even before they can read. Young children are encouraged to use creative spelling to write their own stories before they can read anyone else's. It puts them on the fast track for literacy - which we luv - but leads to, if not actually poor spelling, a more libertine approach to it than must of us are used to.

By the early elementary years, children and the omniscient spell-check function have become bffl (best friends for life), setting off a dependency that some educational experts say may lead to young people never mastering the rich and frustrating intricacies of the English language.

So, like worries over math computation skills in the wake of the calculator, will young people's spelling skills diminish then disappear as a result of the computer? Wdk (We don't know). We're hoping, however, that all that communication will make kids fall in love with the English language, and that any writing skills that initially disappear will bbl (be back later).

Instant messaging wiping out our native tongue? r u lyk rly jk? (Are you, like, really just kidding?)

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