If a granddaughter told her granny that the selfie she has just posted was widely appreciated by Instagrammers, would the granny understand the message? In most cases, a message of this kind would be as clear as the list of ingredients of Chinese instant noodle soup written in Mandarin. [Need translations from Chinese languages – click here ;)]
The act of linguistic communication is successful when a message that came from the sender to the recipient was understood as intended by the sender.
Considering the mentioned granddaughter-grandmother case of inviting granny to the world of new technologies, we can clearly notice obstacles lying on the way of successful communication. Most frequently, in such situations the sender does not give a thought if the message is understood properly and the recipient simply does not care. Some would say it is just a frippery, but every episode of misunderstanding adds another brick to the wall that crosses the path of successful communication.
It is good to acknowledge that problems with communication process lie on both sides of the chain. That is why we should pay more attention to the message we send and receive. If it is flawless, both contentwise and linguistically, we have a better chance of communicating successfully.
Generation gap is a relic
Communication difficulties between parents and their children are natural and have existed throughout the ages. Social phenomena specialists named it the generation gap. Nowadays, generation gap is a drop in the ocean of misunderstandings. Today, two non-hostile peers will hardly come to an understanding without a tiny bit of goodwill.
Let’s say Stan and Tony were classmates at the Secondary School. After graduation, Stan decided to study philosophy. Tony chose management in business. Stan became a successful poet and Tony started his dream job – PM in a huge international company. Both of them are satisfied with their professional careers and see bright future ahead of them. Imagine they meet one lovely Friday afternoon to have a cup of coffee. Each of them would have to put some effort to make the conversation understandable for one another. Stan and Tony come from the same neighbourhood, but with time they developed different language patterns, both vocabulary and pronunciation. The difference may be so big that they may seem to use two dialects of the same language.
In Poland, we have some linguistic problems, too. We suffer from an international corporation illness called the Ponglish language. Its victims, once infected, seem not to be able to speak Polish anymore. To communicate with other people, they use a weird and kind of annoying mixture of English and Polish. Unfortunately, they use it also when they are not at work, spreading the disease to people entirely unconscious of the threat. We may laugh at it, but if we looked closely, we would notice how serious this problem is. We have irreversible damage of the Polish language at stake.
Influence of the young on the mother tongue
The youth has always been the driving force of nation in multiple aspects. It is no different when it comes to the usage of language. Young people set new language trends, create new words and phrases. They decide what is in and what is out of linguistic fashion. If a youngster does not obey those rules, there is no place for them at the upcoming party. It is really hard to keep up with the language trends as nowadays they change very rapidly. I bet even James Joyce would have been surprised with the amount of neologisms created on daily basis if he had lived in our times. At the same time, he would not be impressed with the quality of them, though.
The amount of shortcuts created to fit the 140-character tweets or other messages of limited text capacity is enormous. They are often funny and very catchy. It is not surprising at all that people use them more and more frequently to finally move them in their vocabulary for good. If you think it does no harm, try to imagine what kind of words our children will use.
Young people invented a completely new way of communication through pictures. We may say it is brand new picture writing, but I would not risk putting it in one line with the hieroglyphic script. Memes. A mine of new words and trends, used, inter alia, to comment current affairs. Maybe creating innovative platform to connect people is a way of solving communication problems? Maybe the languages as we know them have to change completely? Or maybe it is just going back to pictography?
The effects of the language dynamics
Our great-grandparents did not use phones; our grandparents did. Our parents, we and our children use mobile phones and smartphones. The chronology is not important here. Remember our great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers did not know the word “phone”, because such a device did not exist then. Our grandmothers knew that the word “mobile” describes a state of a person when one’s legs are operational. The word “smartphone” has not celebrated its 10th birthday yet. Imagine that! A couple of years ago, a generation ago, some words did not exist; some meant something different than today.
Language evolves. Our current vocabulary is a result of thousands of years of our ancestors’ communication processes. Language is prone to multiple external factors, from social and political environment, economic conditions, wars and conflicts, to culture and art. Changes are natural, but if we do not want to end up talking within 140 characters or using LOLs, OMGs, BRBs and YOLOs instead of beautifully built sentences, we will have to put more effort into WHAT and HOW we communicate with one another.