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Monday 22 September 2014

'Gr8'! Texting 'improves children's spelling and grammar'

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Claire Carter

Published 13/06/2014 | 10:31

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I drunk dial, but I've got the wrong number

Texting may improve children’s spelling and grammar because using abbreviations such as ‘gr8’ makes them think about language phonetically, a study found.

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Scientists claim the research dispells myths that text messaging damages children’s grasp of the English language and found that when younger children use shortened words and abbreviations in messages it could actually improve their spelling.

They claim using abbreviations like ‘gr8’ and ‘1daful’ require children to sound out spellings this can actually help them when they come to learning and writing words.

Leaving out punctuation and capitals were also linked to the positive development of children’s spelling and grammar skills, according to the study by Coventry University and the University of Tasmania.

“Our previous work has shown that the reason why we see positive associations between use of texting slang and spelling outcomes is because many of the most commonly used forms of text abbreviation are phonetically based,” Clare Wood, professor of psychology in education at Coventry University said.

“So when children are playing with these creative representations of language they have to use and rehearse their understanding of letter-sound correspondences: a skill which is taught formally as phonics in primary classrooms.

"So texting can offer children the chance to practice their understanding of how sounds and print relate to each other”.

Four in ten children between the ages of five and 10 now own a mobile phone, and three in 10 own a smartphone, with the use of ‘text speak’ widespread in messages and on social media.

Data from the National Literary Trust also shows that children are now more likely to read on digital devices which have become a “pervasive” aspect of their lives.

The study, published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, analysed the text messages sent by primary, secondary and university students and their performance in grammar and spelling tests. This was repeated a year later with the 234 participants.

Researchers found no connection between grammatical errors or omissions made in text messages such as “wanna” and “gr8”, and children’s understanding of grammar and spelling. Use of errors among primary school age pupils – such as ‘they is’ rather than ‘they are’ – also led to positive improvements in grammatical ability 12 months letter.

The only group that showed a negative impact in the tests were young adults, but researchers said this could be due to intellectual ability.

They found young people continue to use abbreviations in text messages to convey emotion and because of constraints on their time.

Prof Wood added: “Our work shows that the concerns that adults understandably have about this new environment for literacy are not supported by current evidence.”

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