Shrunken words and implications therein

Farhat Afzal is disturbed the amalgamation of Bangla and English language and the teenspeak language on internet and mobile phone message that is affecting the youth from writing full and proper spelling of words

06A friend once asked me, ‘Isn’t typing out entire words exhausting when you are texting?’ I realised she was referring to my aversion to using acronyms or other forms of internet slangs in my writing. I replied that it was far more exhausting to decipher shortened form of words in text messages. So I save the receiver of my text from going through all that trouble.
It is becoming an increasingly prevalent practice of Bangladeshis to mix and switch between English and Bangla when conversing with peers at schools, universities, workplaces or even at home. The extent to which English is used as a medium of communication varies with the individual’s academic background, the conversation and the overall context. With Facebook emerging as one of the leading social networks used by Bangladeshi youths, a large number of discussions taking place on that platform are also presented in the form of internet slangs. As a result, conversations are happening in an odd, hybrid language some not-so-lovingly call ‘Banglish’.
It is believed that the ‘Banglish’ language movement took place with the arrival of privately owned FM Radio stations in 2006. The Radio Jockeys, more widely known as RJs, adapted this hybrid language style that quickly gained popularity among youths.
On the other hand, internet slang has been generally preferred by users since the early days of the internet. Internet slangs are informal speech invented by young people because abbreviations and acronyms save a lot of time and internet is all about fast communication. While this has become an accepted way of communication among teenagers, the prevalence of such language even among educated adults is on the rise.
I find that alarming. In spite of the incident I mentioned above, I myself send a few LOLs and ROFLs to my friends on a daily basis. These acronyms are so commonly used that they have even found their place in Oxford English Dictionary in 2011. Such internet slangs represent your reaction in a medium where the other person cannot see you. When your friend types out a joke, instead of typing several ‘Hahahas’, you go for a simple LOL. That’s acceptable. It is hip. It is the 21st century lingo.
However, some internet users have now taken the liberty to shorten any and every word they can think of.  Some claim that internet conversations have more shortened words now thanks to Twitter’s 140 characters limitation. On the contrary, shortened words have been practiced by teens and adults alike since the early days of instant messaging. Informal it might be, but it does do the job of getting the message across in a quick span of time. And time is money.
07What bothers me is that when people type out complete sentences in Bangla, by using incorrect English alphabet. It would appear that a lot of internet users, regardless of their academic background, have no basic knowledge of which English alphabet represents which Bangla alphabet. For example, according to them, ‘f’ is pronounced the same way as ‘v’ so ‘fvB’ becomes ‘vai’, ‘fyj’ becomes ‘vul’ and ‘fvwMbv’ becomes…well, you know what. As if that in itself is not a complete horror already, they add a mixture of illegible short-hands that make it seem like toddlers have gotten hold of their keyboards. Let’s not even mention the use of punctuations because apparently, there is no need for those.
I know of adults who are perfectly capable of articulating full sentences in writing but use such atrocious language on social media. It may seem harmless, but it is damaging for teens and younger children as the frequency and exposure to teenspeak languages blur the difference with formal language. I was shocked to hear reports of students using ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ and ‘2’ instead of ‘to’ in their school work. A teacher from Maryland, US, claims that students no longer felt the need to capitalise or use punctuations. All of these incidents should be a matter for concern for all of us.
Social media is having a deep impact on young people’s vocabulary to the point where they feel too lazy to even write down words in full. Eventually, they would find it difficult to write full words in sentences and taking exams would seem like a bigger obstacle than it already is. It is important for the future generation of the country that they write either in Bangla or in English on social media and not create an amalgamation of the two. It is amazing to see that we have so much control over a language that is international for the rest of the world, but considered as a foreign language in our country. There are reports that bilingual children are in fact intellectually superior to monolingual children. However, let’s not make bilingualism a handicap when in fact, it is a blessing in disguise.

– The author is a final year student of architecture at the American International University-Bangladesh.

Photos – internet

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