Menace Of Text Message Abbreviations On English Language Examinations

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  • Background of the study

Text message (TM) simply refers to the use of abbreviations that might not necessarily be universally accepted. It makes use of short language forms to craft short message services (SMS), instant messages (IM), black berry messages (BBM) and so and so forth. This type of communication does not usually follow any language pattern, standards, rules, spellings, syntax or otherwise (Ochonogor, Alakpodia & Achugbue, 2012).

According to Vosloo, (2009) Abbreviations and acronyms are used a lot in chat conversations and text messages as a way to speed up conversations, get points across quickly and type less when you’re in a rush. An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase (e.g. TV is an abbreviation of television). Vosloo explained that an acronym is when one takes the first letter of each word (or most words) in a phrase and put them together to make an abbreviation (e.g. TGIF is an acronym for Thank God It’s Friday). Smith, (2008) added that sometimes it can be very embarrassing if one misunderstand an abbreviation or use one in the wrong way. Students do lots of texting in English, learn some useful texting abbreviations and read an article about texting and literacy (Smith, 2008).

Lately, as stated by Michael, (2012) some people have been concerned that the explosion in text messaging among young people is having a negative effect on their literacy skills (Michael, 2012). However, a recent study compared the spelling and punctuation of some students texters and non-texters, finding no significant differences between the two groups.  It is important when texting to be fast and concise. This is to save on time and space. A reader who is unfamilar with texting will feel lost when they see abbreviations, acronyms and emoticons. For texters, this ‘language’ is easy to read and easy to write.  The debate about the harmful effects of texting started a few years ago (Bachman, 2010).

In Nigeria, teachers began noticing examples of texting abbreviations in their students’ exam papers. One case, students who wrote an entire description of summer holidays in text language, became famous for using much of abbreviations. The teachers sent a sample of the essay to a national newspaper and readers sent in hundreds of letters giving their opinion (Odey, 2014). However, the rules of English, as taught in a classroom, prescribe a correct word and grammar for every situation: “lay” vs “lie,” “can” vs “may,” “it’s” vs “its.” But in the realm of texting, the emphasis is on brevity and clarity. Any message that makes sense is allowed, and those messages vary widely (Awoyemi, 2013). Once this lack of attention to correct language becomes the norm in texting, it carries over to non-texting use as well.

A study at Delta State by Ochonogor, Alakpodia &  Achugbue on “The Impact of Text Message Slang (Tms) or Chartroom Slang on Students Academic Performance” found that students who texted more abbreviations performed worse on grammar tests. Not every texting convenience had the same effect, however: “Word adaptations” — think abbreviations and slang — had a negative impact on examination, but “structural adaptations” had no significant effect (Ochonogor, Alakpodia & Achugbue, 2012).

According to Taiwo, (2014) there was a hoax school essay produced some years back which was entirely written in texting abbreviations. Unfortunately, many were taken in by it. Taiwo opined that teachers were asked to show examples of textisms in examination answer papers and was noticed of a single instance of rushed writing (Taiwo, 2014). Taiwo further stated that when asking the students themselves would they ever use textisms in their writing. The answer was “Why would one ever want to do that?” said one to Taiwo. “That would be stupid.” Quite so. You would have to be pretty dumb to not see the difference between texting style and essay style Taiwo said. Similarly, Ugot, (2010) opined that when asking many examiners whether they have seen textisms in examination answers. The answer was no. Ugot further said, but conducting research and asking if students use textisms in examinations, there is an almost universal yes. Though many including students themselves don’t believe that students uses abbreviation in examinations. It’s extraordinary how these myths take hold of the public imagination (Bomodo, 2009). A further myth is that texting is harming student’s literacy. Well of course, according to Essoh, (2011) once one see the reality, this myth disappears. What is interesting is the recent research which is showing that the more students text, the better their literacy scores. Because reading and writing improve with practice. Texting provides that practice but the issue is when depending on using abbreviation more often than necessary (Essoh, (2011).

  • Statement of the problem

Balogun, (2013) maintained that many scholars has found out and believe that a text message among secondary school students is “full” of abbreviations. In fact, Balogun stated when collecting a corpus of messages from secondary school students and analyzing them, the average number of words per message that are abbreviated is around 10% in a sentence. That means that most words are in standard spelling. This is especially true of messages between adolescents, now constituting about 80% of all text messages (Balogun, 2013). As opined by Babalola, (2013) some countries had actually ban abbreviations, because of their possible unfamiliarity or ambiguity and threat on examinations regarding students usage.

It is undeniable that the language of the text had a profound impact on the English vocabulary, one of the main components of language change. While abbreviations and slang might not have a place in professional writing or academia, they have permeated daily life, with terms like cray and YOLO making it into dictionaries (Odey, 2014). More so, Awoyemi, (2013) maintained that old standards like BRB and LOL are so well known that some people even speak them aloud. And if one include Twitter lingo as an offshoot of text speak, consider the prevalence of the term hashtag, which among young people has become a synonym for the hash sign itself (Awoyemi, 2013).

For Babalola, (2013) language also changes through the way people write and form sentences. Texting has a notoriously lax set of rules — no one complains if a text doesn’t end with a period — and that attitude has taken seed in the rest of the language. Babalola further maintained that according to linguistics professor Naomi Baron in an article in Educational Leadership, people have grown less and less concerned about following the rules of English grammar over recent years. Texting wasn’t the beginning of this shift, but as Baron writes, “computer and mobile-phone technologies add fuel to the linguistic fire.” (Babalola, 2013)

However, According to Odey, (2014) texters might not care about periods, commas and apostrophes, but that doesn’t mean that texts are grammarless. Odey went on to say that English professor John McWhorter once claimed that one of texting’s best known terms, LOL, is actually a form of grammar. The term almost never actually means “laughing out loud.” Instead, it serves a grammatical function, giving a message an air of levity (Odey, 2014). As stated by Essoh, (2011) McWhorter compares “LOL” to the suffix “-ed” in that it denotes past tense “rather than ‘meaning’ anything.”

  • Objective of the study

The general objective of this study is to determine the menace of text message abbreviations on English language examinations (a study of three secondary schools in Okota Local Government Area)

The specific objectives of this study are:

  1. assess students understanding regarding text message abbreviations
  2. identify the effect of text message abbreviations on English language examinations among secondary school students
  3. determine the extent  to  which text message abbreviations influences the writing performance of the sampled population.
  4. expose other users (parents/ teachers) of text message abbreviations to the menace of the influence of text message abbreviations on secondary school students
  • Research Questions
  1. To what extent do students understand text message abbreviations?
  2. What is the effect of text message abbreviations on English language examinations among secondary school students?
  3. What is the extent to which text message abbreviations influences the writing performance of the sampled population?
  4. How will other users (parents/ teachers) be exposed of text message abbreviations regarding the menace of the influence of text message abbreviations on secondary school students?
  • Significance of study

The identification of the menace of text message abbreviations on English language examinations by secondary school students is significant in the following ways: it will reveal the level of effect of text message abbreviations on students during examination in English. It will provide teachers with enough technique to employ to meet the massive and evolving need of so desperate students for information and learning. It will help parents interpret some abbreviations of forged text messages to confuse their understanding of certain content, such as “CPC” which means “Keep Parents Clueless” and also help them check their children’s performance in English. It will allow teachers to be alert to the challenges posed by students unrestricted dependence on text message abbreviations and its backwash on their writing ability. The results of this study will add to the existing literature and will as well provide reference materials for the academic society and further research.

1.6       Scope of the study

This  study  is  an  investigation  of  the  menace  of  text message abbreviations on English language examinations among  senior  secondary   school  students  in   Okota Local Government Area.  The  focus will  be  on  the  effect  of text message abbreviations  on  the writing performance  of  this  group  of  students

1.7     Limitation of the study

The challenges that posed a threat to this work include the following; the results is self-reported in nature and the attitudes of the respondents turned to be huge obstacles to this study

1.8     Definition of terms

Menace: Is text message abbreviations being a threat or potential hazard to secondary school students when using them during examinations.

Text message: Is an electronic communication sent and received by secondary school students typing words through mobile phone which often could be in shortened form.

Abbreviation: is the most widely used term for a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase used predominantly in writing to represent the complete form especially when taking examinations by secondary school students.

Examination: Is an official test that shows secondary school students’ knowledge or aptitude in English language examinations.

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