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This article was published on February 24, 2012

UK firms are putting school-leavers on courses to correct their ‘text-speak’

UK firms are putting school-leavers on courses to correct their ‘text-speak’
Paul Sawers
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Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

It looks like the much-maligned text-speak generation is being forced to rethink the way it LOLs its way into new jobs, with ‘de-text’ courses now being laid on by bosses frustrated at the poor communications skills in school-leavers, reports the Daily Mail.

The UK Chief Executive of recruitment agency Adecco has said that many of its corporate clients are complaining about the language skills of those seeking entry-level positions in their companies. Peter Searle also noted that social networking has created a generation that lacks the basic communication skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

“We have instances in offices where people would rather sit at their desk and send emails to each other next door than walk around and have a conversation,” says Searle. “They have no respect for their manager. They don’t ask them for advice because it isn’t their social background to do that.”

To be honest, this sounds a lot more like how many teenagers have always typically behaved, and the correct office etiquette is normally learned over time.

Is social networking destroying language?

Whilst it may seem sad that training is being given to school-leavers who use text-speak such as ‘IDK’ for ‘I don’t know’ and ‘LOL’ for ‘laughing out loud’, it would be unfair to blame social networking or technology for any shortfall in language capacity.

We’ve previously reported that social networking can be good for language, and there’s growing evidence to suggest that digital short form can have a positive influence on communication.

The British Journal of Developmental Psychology has reported that text-speak aids reading development in youngsters. Shortenings, contractions, acronyms, and unconventional spellings all fall under the broader ‘language’ umbrella, and the more exposure children have to the written word, the more literate they become.

It may seem logical to think that a child’s literacy skills suffer from using ‘L8R’ rather than later, but studies have shown that an understanding of the original word is still required. So whilst watching MTV may cause brain-rot over time, texting, emailing, instant messaging, tweeting and Facebooking may actually be good for broader language development.

Of course, if a child isn’t being taught proper grammar at school, and they’d rather play Angry Birds than read Gulliver’s Travels, that will lead to poor overall literacy. And if a child isn’t encouraged to be social (in the physical sense) at school and at home, then this will certainly have ramifications for their future employment prospects.

People use word contractions in the digital world out of necessity. There is so much digital data to digest on a daily basis that people have naturally sought ways to create more space and speed things up. Anyone who has ever written an essay with a strict word-limit will testify that it’s more difficult to cut down a text than expand it. It’s often harder to write a 140-character tweet than a 300-word email.

This isn’t to detract from the overall problem here though. If employers are struggling to fill vacancies because school-leavers can’t work in a team, are rarely punctual or can’t communicate with colleagues, then this is symptomatic of a broader societal problem.

Adecco’s research showed that 52% of employers believe the British school system isn’t equipping youngsters for the world of work. So if we’re using that as a barometer, then half of employers don’t see a problem. The half that have experienced the communication skills of generation text-speak have been subjected to what Searle believes is a big gap between the UK education system and what businesses need.

“We have a generation of people who are fundamentally bored and who need something to motivate them,” he said. “There are no large environments where you can just hang up your brain as you go inside and go through the day and get paid for it. Our education system is failing to equip the future workforce effectively. As a nation, we place insufficient value on the basic tools of employability such as behaviour, attitude and communication – in the classroom, the workplace and in the home. As a result, we fear a whole generation of potential workers will be deemed unemployable and lost to UK businesses.”

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