Short Messaging Services (SMS) and English Language Usage in Selected Secondary Schools in Nsukka Urban Area

ABSTRACT

The advent of the technology called Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) has brought in a paradigm shift from the conventional English Language Writing, to what researchers now call SMS system of communication. This has been observed in many places as well as Nigeria. English language being an official language in Nigeria and fast becoming a global language cannot diffuse into un-intelligibility through such influences like SMS language. The importance of language generally to man is such that any virus that portends catastrophe to it attracts special attention. Some research works have been carried out to trace the influence of the emerging trends on the users of this technology; this project is one of researchers aims at identifying the influence of SMS language on the writing performance of secondary school students, in Nsukka Urban Area of Enugu State, Nigeria. An extensive literature review has been carried out on the GSM technology, its special features especially the Short Message Services (SMS) that brought in this encoding of English language through text message, computer mediated communication, the importance and dynamics of language and other relevant aspects of the project topic. From the foregoing it is obvious that the SMS of GSM influences students ’ writing.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Global system for mobile communication (GSM), is a digital telephone system that digitalizes and compresses data to help improve the speed of wireless mobile when communicating… (answers.yahoo.com/question/index3/11/09). GSM is one of the leading digital cellular systems that use narrowband Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) which allows eight simultaneous calls on the same radio frequency (Webopedia.internet.com/img/mock/rcat-new.gif.12/10/09). This system of communication is far more advanced than the traditional analogue cellular technology (Computer.com/ITNewspaperJan.2002 Pg.11). GSM uses a variation of time division multiple access (TDMA) and is the most widely used of the three digital wireless telephony technologies (TDMA, GSM and DMA).In 2007, more than 690 mobile networks provide GSM services across 213 countries and GSM represents 82.4% of all global mobile connections. According to GSM world, there are now more than 2 billion GSM mobile phone users worldwide. The number of mobile subscriptions the world is expected to see by the end of the ongoing year (2009) is reportedly heading for 4.6 billion as reported by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) secretary, recently (Softpedia.mht.14/10/09).

One of the objectives for the GSM-based platform was to offer advanced services and functionality from a single network, and to meet this goal, the designers made it part of the standard and based the architecture on the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) called model. (Comptuer.com/ITNewspaperl.Jan. 2002 Pg.11).

GSM services are a standard collection of applications and features available to mobile phone subscribers all over the world and are the world’s most dominant mobile phone standard. The design of the service is moderately complex because it must be able to locate a moving phone of the same service anywhere in the world. The GSM standard also provides separate facilities for transmitting digital data. This allows a mobile phone to act like any other computer on the Internet, sending and receiving data via the Internet protocol (Wikipedia, 2009). The mobile may also be connected to a desktop computer, laptop or Personal digital Assistants (PDA), for use as a network interface (just like a modem or Ethernet card) (Wikipedia, 2009).

With the ascendancy of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the world has been compressed into a global village. GSM enhanced the velocity of world communication. The gamut of services which mobile phone renders include

  • Integrated Voice Call
  • Internet Access; (separate facilities for transmitting digital data which allows a mobile phone to act like any other computer on the internet, sending and receiving data via the internet protocol)
  • Circuit Switched Data
  • General Packet Radio Service (GPRS),
  • Music Player, (Mp3)
  • Calculator
  • Calendar
  • Digital Colour Camera
  • Short Message Services (SMS)
  • MAPS
(1111) Weather Channel
(12) You Tube
(13) Dictionary
(14) Encyclopedia
(15) Light
(16) Clock/alarm etc.

All these services are mostly transmitted in the English language. The internet, with the majority of its content/ learning is written in English and it is no wonder that people of this planet are using the English language as the vehicle and bridge across borders and cultures. The language has become a source of unity in communicating with a rapidly changing world (Baskerville, 14). So, at a time in history when people want to, and can, through the Internet connect with the world, English just happens to be the tool close at hand that can do the job. English language commands unparalleled international intelligibility. Onuigbo and Eyisi (2009, v)describe it as an important centripetal force that pulls divergent chordstowards a central point in spite of the diversity of the world today. Even though computer and lasers are tools for the space age, English is the language of transmission. It has become a lingua franca, a global language regularly used and understood by many nations for whom English is not their first language. Any virus that interferes with English language learning portends a catastrophe for world unity and peace in the globalization process. With two billion people now speaking English or learning to speak it, we can creditably imagine a genuine global language.

Short Message Service (SMS) language or textese is a term for the abbreviations and slang most commonly used owing to the necessary brevity of mobile phone text messaging. The objective of textese is to use the fewest number of characters needed to convey a comprehensible message, hence, punctuation, grammar, and capitalizations are largely ignored. People like John Humphrey, a Welsh journalist and television reporter, has criticized textese as “wrecking our language”. He describes emoticons and textese as “irritating” and essentially lazy behaviours, and summarised that “sloppy” habits gained while using textese will result in student’s growing ignorance of proper grammar and punctuation” (Wikipedia 14/01/09). David Crystal in his findings summarized in his popular book Txting: “the Gr8 Db8” says that despite scholarly research to the contrary, the popular notion that text messaging is damaging to linguistic development of young people and to the English language itself persists. (mhtml:file://:\smslanguage-Wikipedia,the free encyclopedia. Mht12/10/09).

Peter Baskerville in his book Global English: a Paradigm Shift (www.knol.google.com 14/10/09) says: “change has been the one constant in the development of the human race since the beginning. But never has change been so immense as it has been in the past decade. Just think about the massive changes taking place in our environment, technology, communications and economies just to name a few… and so it is now with language, in the form of Global English. According to him, recent statement has been made by researchers, that English in the 21st century has not only become the lingua franca of international business but is becoming the lingua franca of all global communication. The eventual effect on the English of this development can only be guessed at today, but there can be little doubt that they will be as important as anything that has happened to English in the past sixteen hundred years (Philip, Durkan.www.askoxford.com/world of Oxford/history. 1/10/09).

In Nigeria , GSM means telecom explosion. The GSM revolution began in August 2001 and changed the face of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Nigeria. Since the GSM launch, mobile telephony has rapidly become the most popular method of voice communication in Nigeria. Growth has been so rapid that Nigeria has been rightly described in various fora as “one of the fastest growing GSM markets in the world”. A growing number of population in Nigeria own a mobile phone, making it an increasingly important aspect of everyone’s lives. Likewise, GSM has revolutionized our business environment. Today, the people of Nigeria can transact their business from the comfort of their homes through the GSM facility (mhtml:file://E:\allAfrica-com. 16/10/09). Hamadoun Toure, International Communication Union (ITU) secretary general said, “ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) are vital within developing countries to ensure that ordinary people can fully participate in the knowledge economy of the 21st century (Softpedia.mht. 14/10/09). Nigeria is developing, and so. should not allow the ICT driven globalization, development, peace and unity be hampered by the said serious influence of the GSM/SMS, internet/email systems of communication. A high proficiency in the communicative ability of Nigerians in English language should rather be encouraged.

Opinion differs as to the use of SMS language. People have expressed their concern about the influence of SMS on the English language and said that the popular SMS and e-mail phonetic spelling have corrupted the English language. There have been some reports in the media of children using SMS language for essay in school: (mhtml:file://H:\sms language. 10/14/09).

Prince Charles in The Guardian of June 8, 2005 attacked teachers in a gathering, saying that plans to allow children to study text messaging as part of GCSE English studies were damaging the prospects of future generation. Others maintain that text messaging is merely one stage of our revolution and it is on the way out.

While some people decry the woe of text messaging and SMS language, others like David Crystal, a Professor of Linguistics in the University of Wales, Bangor9 said in The Guardian of February 28, 2005, that “the advent of new language styles and forms engendered by the Internet, and related communication development such as SMS messaging, should be greeted with delight”. To him, it is the greatest opportunity for the development of the English language since the advent of the printing press in the Middle Ages (mhtml:file//E:\textually_org). Experts believe that the new form of communication such as mobile phone texting, email and internet messaging are helping us to stay in touch with each other (mhtml://:GlobalEnglish.org/English a paradigm shift). In China, it is believed that text messaging preserves everyone’s dignity by eliminating the human voice. It has also been observed that English has undergone four stages in the past and is in the process to the fifth.

The four stages English Language has undergone as recorded by Peter Baskerville are

  • Old English (Germanic tribe) 450 to 1100 AD
  • Middle Age English (William the Conqueror) 1100 – 1500 AD
  • Modern English (Dialect of London) 1500 – 1800 AD.
  • Late Modern English (Industrial Revolution) 1800 – 2000.
  • Post Modern English (Internet) since 2000.

Baskerville consequently observed that “those sceptable about a new English being created from the technology of the internet and text messages will only need to view the new 900 SMS acronym list from a social mobile network provider SMS Fun Dictionary to see how a new language can form from English within just a few years.

The curiosity for this project arose when I intercepted a student teacher’s text message during a gathering. This was what I saw in her mobile phone.

Hi V, hw r u. U’re gr8, ryt? GF, I wntd 2 c u FTF A3 drng d hols, bt u wr scrse.

FYI, u r enlstd 4 an award in ur dept. IMHO, u sld rsh bk 2 skul 2 clm it, IYKWIM CUL. :-*, MK V

The effort both the girl and I made to decode the message proved abortive, until I personally took this message home and used the internet to find thefull meaning of some of the abbreviations.

The translation reads thus:

“Hello love, how are you? You are great, right? Girl friend, I wanted to see you face to face, any place, anytime, any where during the holidays, but you were scarce. For your information, you are enlisted for an award in your department. In my humble opinion, you should rush back to school to claim it, if you know what I mean. See you later, smiling! Mike Love”

It may be illogical to hope and to believe that language is dynamic and thus not allow the apprehensions created by the above mentioned systems become verified. From the foregoing, it is obvious that something is happening between the conventional English grammar and/or usage and the system of its usage in the GSM/SMS as an information communicating technology. The pattern with which information is passed through the GSM has changed in structure and probably in other linguistic levels of English language. The major interest in this project is therefore to find out whether GSM/SMS system of communication has influenced conventional English language to such extent that students in secondary schools forget the standard rules of the language.

Some researches have been done on the influence of GSM/SMS language, with university undergraduates. An example is that of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the British Overseers Administration (ODA) in 1990. Chiluwa (www.educ/utas.edu/au/users/Journal, Oct. 2009), of the Covenant University, Nigeria also researched on the extent to which textmessaging constructs Christian value belief system and sentiments in Nigeria.

In the same vein a similar investigation was carried on the socioliguistic of mobile phone SMS usage in Cameroon and Nigeria by Feuba Wanji Elvis of the Department of English, University of Yaunde. Ezekwesili (2008: 382) has also studied the impact of GSM/ICT on undergraduate writing. All these researches found adverse impacts of SMS coded language on the English language.

To the best of my knowledge, no such research has been conducted with secondary school students. No analysis has also been done on the pattern of text messaging with this group of students in Nsukka Urban.

This study therefore, aims at determining the influence of the short message service (SMS) on secondary school students on the learning of this all important language and by extension, on the teaching of the most widely spoken language of our time, English.

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

There is a paradigm shift from the conventional English language writing to what researchers have now call GSM/SMS, Internet/ e-mail systems of communication. The problem is identifying the influence of GSM/SMS, internet/e-mail systems of communication on the learning of the English language.

The fact that English language in Nigeria is studied in a second language situation creates enough problem, but the emergence of GSM/SMS and e-mail system of communication makes the learning of English more complex with the interference features from this new development. Many researches (as recorded above) have examined the problems of English in a second language situation at various levels of linguistic usage. There is so much literature on the phonological and syntactic problems of learners of English in a second language situation, but the emerging trends in GSM/SMS and e-mail system of communication add new dimensions to these problems. The emerging trends have provoked great interests but not much has been done in exploring the influence of the emerging trend on the structure and general development of the English language among secondary school students. And that is what this project is designed to fulfill.

Sporadic comments may exist, but this project is designed to do a detailed study with a view to providing a systematic view that will characterize the situation and the possible dangers of the communication revolution on the development of the core features of English, on the level of performance of the students at secondary school level.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The following research questions will guide the study:

  • Is there any influence of SMS language on the learning of English in secondary schools?
  • To what extent does SMS system of communication affect the writing of secondary school students?

The data for answering these research questions will be generated from

  • Students’ essay scripts
  • Students’ text-messages.

PURPOSE OF STUDY

The purpose of this study is

  • To identify the influence of SMS system of communication on English language performance of secondary school students.
  • To identify the extent to which SMS language influences the writing performance of the sampled population.
  • To expose other users (parents/ teachers) of SMS to the danger of the influence of SMS language on young students.

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

The identification of the influence of SMS system of communication on the learning of English language by secondary school students is significant in the following ways:

  • It will reveal the level of impact of SMS system of communication on the students’ performance in English.
  • It will provide teachers with enough technique to employ to meet the massive and evolving need of youths so desperate for information and learning.
  • It will assist parents in interpreting some text-message abbreviations forged to confuse their understanding of certain contents, such as “CPC” which means “Keep Parents Clueless” and also help them check their children’s performance in English.
  • It will help learners curtail the excesses involved in the use of GSM/SMS, Internet/e-mail.
  • It will enable second language teachers to be alert to the challenges posed by students’ unrestrained dependence on SMS and its backwash on their writing ability.

SCOPE OF STUDY

This study is an investigation of the influence of SMS system of communication among senior secondary school students in Nsukka Urban. The focus will be on the influence of SMS on the writing performance of this category of students. Consequently, the study will cover only senior secondary schools in Nsukka urban.

References

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Ajala, Ireti. Directors Magazine: GIS and GSM Network Quality Monitoring: A Nigeria Case study. Nov. 26, 2005.

Akpabio, Eno. “The Medium and its Impact: Overview of GSM Service in Nigeria ,” International Journal of communication, Number three, April 2005. 32.

Akwanya, A.N. Semantics and Discourse: Theories of Meaning and Textual Analysis. Enugu: Acena, 2007
Azi Jang, Jude. “ICT Globalization and Cultural Imperialism: A study of Nigeria’s Position in the 21st century. ’ Journal of Nigeria Languages and Culture Vol. 11. No 2 2009. 135-142.

Baskerville, Peter Global English: A Paradigm Shift.
http: www.knol.google.com. k peierbaskeiville globalenglish-a-paradigm-shift 7: 14/10/09.

Chiluwa, Innocent. SMS Text Messaging and the Nigeria Christian Context: Constructing Values and Sentiments. The International Journal of Language Society and Culture. Thao Le and Author. URl:www. educ/utas.edu.au/users/journal/ISN1327- 774X.

Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language: New York: Cambridge, 1989. Durkan, Philip. Five Events that shaped the History of English. www.askoxford.com/worldfword/history, 1/10/09.