IMPACT OF SMS LANGUAGE ON STUDENTS ESSAY WRITING OF SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Background to the Study
The role of written language has clearly changed during the last decades with the emergence of the computer information and communication channels. A great deal of communication occurs by means of writing, which in addition to traditional pen and paper, is mediated by the computer, the internet and devices such as mobile phones. Text messaging is known as a popular tool among teenagers to send jokes, riddles, invitation to parties and other information to their friends. Texting has become a way of life of many teenagers, in particular, students, since most of them own and use mobile phones in their daily life. This phenomenon has in one way or another given rise to a new dialect. Technology plays a very important role in communication today.
The cell phone is one of the most effective, convenient and widely used technological instruments used for communication globally. It uses a communication facility known as the Short Message Service (SMS) which is relatively cheaper both in terms of time and money spent during the process of communication. One uses fewer and shorter words compared to direct communication over the cell phone.
Word processing and sending messages via email are among the most common activities on computers today. Written language is in general standardised with less (dialectal) variation compared to spoken language. Learning a written language means not only acquiring its more or less explicit norms and rules, but also learning to handle the overall writing system, (Telemann 2011). One learns how to segment words, form clauses and express themselves in many different contexts and for different purposes and learns to master grammatical, discursive and strategic competence to convey a thought or message to the reader.
Nowadays, the popular channel of communication that enable written interaction are web chat and instant messaging on the internet, as well as text messaging (SMS) via mobile phones. Some say SMS is an aberrant world of abbreviations, numerals and pictorial icons. The truth is, SMS has rewritten the way we communicate. More importantly, SMS has made human fingers do the 'talking'. Interestingly, it makes people more articulate and open. Texts used in SMS are produced mostly at all times with the aim of saving time, effort, and even cost because it is much cheaper to send messages via SMS than making calls.
According to Russell (2010), SMS has become the 'useful' tool of communication nowadays; formal language is under serious threat. 'Anti-formal communication structures' have been introduced and gradually gaining ground. This has become a matter of concern to linguists and language purists alike. Thus, several questions have been raised especially among teachers because they feel that by using SMS languages, it can affect the students' performance especially in their writing ability and essay writing.
Students use text messages so frequently that an article by Carrington (2005)
referred to them as ‘addicts’ There is almost an unspoken comment here that recreational use of SMS language may ultimately lead to addiction and a lowering of students’ ability to shift between text types according to social context and that increasing mastery and use of text must ipso facto lead to withering skills around other text forms embraced within the parameters of standard English.
However since Short Message Service (SMS) has become the 'useful' tool of communication nowadays, formal language may be under threat. Lenhart and colleagues identified three main reasons why students are choosing texting over talking. First, sending text messages is a form of a synchronous communication and is more discrete than traditional voice phone calls. Second, text messaging can serve as a “buffer” when communicating with friends around parents in addition to being a more comfortable form of communication when discussing intimate or personal subjects with possible romantic interests. Lastly, Lenhart, Ling, Campbell,and Purcell (2010) described texting as “a simple way to keep up with friends when there is nothing special that needs to be communicated”. Just as talk time has become shorter, text messages themselves are a short method of communication.
According to Buczynski (2008), “text messaging, or more specifically SMS (Short Message Service) texting enables text messages up to 160characters long to be sent and received by mobile phones”. At an average word length of five, an average “text” would only allow a total of 32 words per message.
This limitation in characters may be one of the reasons students tend to abbreviate and often ignore the rules of spelling and grammar when texting. Another reason for abbreviations is the use of secret codes. With the many abbreviations used by teens when texting, it is no wonder that students are sending and receiving thousands of text messages each month.
As Vosloo (2009) made clear, “texting does not always follow the standard rules of English grammar, nor usual word spellings. It is so pervasive that some regard it as an emergent language register in its own right”. Like any new technology or rising trend, there will be people in the media and research fields seeking to both understand its potential, as well as determine whether any negative consequences could result from its use.
The majority of the current literature on text messaging has focused on sociological connections; Taylor and Harper, (2003); and the ways schools can use the technology to enhance a student’s education; Harley, Winn, Pemberton, and Wilcox, (2007); Hill, Hill, and Sherman, (2007); Naismith,(2007); Buczynski, (2008).
An essay is a piece of writing that methodically analyses and evaluates a topic or issue. Fundamentally, an essay is designed to get your academic opinion on a particular matter. An essay is, generally a piece of writing that gives the authors own argument- but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of an article, a pamphlet, and a short story.
Concerned scholars have been complaining about poor performance of secondary school students in English language in Nigeria, reports from chief examiners of public examination bodies like west African examinations body reveal that students are failing English language at an alarming rate. The major effect of SMS on students writing essay is teachers marking their essay find it difficult to understand the meaning of the SMS used which leads to low mark on the part of the students. The percentages of students who obtained credit passes in each year of observation were less than those who failed (Ubahakwe, 1991). Many scholars have complained about poor teaching methods employed by the language teachers. This quantitative research study has been designed to examine whether there is a positive or a negative impact of SMS on the ability of students to effectively write essay at the secondary school level.
Statement of the Problem
Text Messaging System or Short Message System (SMS) allows users to send and receive short messages from handheld, digital mobile phones or from a computer to a mobile phone, giving almost instant access to others and to connect to the same service. Young people in particular, have taken to the SMS technology and are adapting and inventing language to accommodate the 160-character limit of short messages which has implications for communications and language use. This is because they are more interested in getting their messages across and becoming less concerned about correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
According to (Carlson , 2004) asserted that language shortcuts and colloquial language are ‘reinforcing bad habits in essay writing’. Students seem to have become more dependent on the language shortcuts (SMS) which may have adverse consequences on the students’ essay writing. The problem is that texting is replacing talking among secondary school students (Lindley, 2008), yet their primary form of communication in the classroom is oral communication and formal writing. In addition, texting is being blamed for hampering students’ formal writing skills. Plester, Wood, and Bell (2008) claimed texting which is more conversationally based is appearing in standard written English and that “this concern, often cited in the media, is based on anecdotes and reported incidents of text language set in school work”. Rosen, Chang, Erwin, Carrier, and Cheever (2010) added that “educators and the media have decried the use of these shortcuts, suggesting that they are causing students to lose the ability to write acceptable Essay”.
It was also observed that there has been a "dramatic decline" in students' writing abilities, and this decline was attributed to sms language use in chatting, facebook, and texting. Another problem is that students do not even know how to use writing mechanism such as capitalize words and punctuation anymore”. Some double syllabus sentences are now shortened to become one syllabic word while some have the problem of spelling. Different situations call for different language styles and their usages. It is a known fact that some students writing essay now posed a problem because such errors are unconsciously made sometimes.
At this time, only a small number of studies have been focused on the impact that high level of text messaging may have on students, and even fewer studies have been focused on their ramifications on formal writing in an educational setting. Simply put, further research is needed to reveal the impact that high levels of text messaging may help on secondary students and young adults when it comes to essay writing in the high school and college classroom. This study thus seeks to examine the impact of SMS language on students essay writing of senior secondary schools (S.S.S) in Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study was to examine the impact of SMS language on students essay writing of Senior Secondary Schools (S.S.S) in Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti. The specific purposes of the study were:
a. to ascertain the factors of Short Message Service (SMS) language written essays of senior secondary school students in Ado Local Government;
b. to identify whether the use of the SMS language affects the organisation component of written essays of senior secondary school students in Ado Local Government.
c. to determine the extent to which the SMS language influences the mechanical accuracy component of written essays of senior secondary school students in Ado Local Government.
d. to examine the features SMS language in written essays of senior secondary school students between male and female students.
e. to examine the features SMS language in written essays of senior secondary school students between public and private schools.
The research work attempts to provide answers to the following questions:
a. What are the features of the short messaging (SMS) language in written essays of senior secondary school students in Ado Local Government?
b. What is the influence of Short Messaging Service (SMS) on the organisation component of written essays of senior secondary school students in study area.
c. What is the extent of manifestation of Short Messaging Service (SMS) language on the mechanical component of written essays of senior secondary school students in Ado Local Government?
d. Is there any difference in the features of SMS language based on student sex.
e. Is there any difference in the feature of SMS language based on school type (i.e. public and private
The following hypotheses are raised
1. There is no significant difference in the features of SMS language in the essay of SSS students based on sex.
2. There is no significant difference in the features of SMS language in the essay of SSS students based on school type(i.e Public and private).
Significance of the Study
The significance of the study deals with the need for the study and its possible application and utilization. This study is significant in the following ways:
It addresses the question that so many teachers, parents, and students have about the potential relationship(s) between SMS technology and students’ formal writing skills in the classroom.
The study may lead educators and students to a greater understanding of how text Messaging may relate to a student’s writing development and ability to effectively present him or herself through writing.
The study may also provide administrative insight as to how text messaging should be managed by the school; e.g. should it be encouraged or banned from the classroom?
To curriculum planners, the study is expected to give an understanding of how SMS language affects students’ writing; hence, they will see if there is need to adjust the curriculum to factor in the technological changes that may improve their deficient writing skills.
This work gives writers an insight into SMS language and its impact on written English. Embarking on this, they are motivated to produce more works on the impact of SMS language on students’ writing. The study also serves as a resource material for others who want to carry out research in related field.
Delimitation of the Study
The study is was delimited to SMS language on the written essays of senior secondary school students in Ado Local Government. The coverage of this study was limited to five (5) senior secondary schools in Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti. The study would be delimited to SS1 and SS2 in the selected local government.
Definition of Terms
Essay: An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own Argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal.
SMS: Short Message Service
Students: a person who is studying at a secondary school, university or other place of higher education.
School: An institution for educating children or any institution at which instruction is given in a particular discipline.
Mobile Phone: a telephone with access to a cellular radio system so it can be used over a wide area, without a physical connection to a network.