Published 25th April 2016

FOMO. IMHO. LOL. BRB.

If you’re looking at those and wondering what on earth we’re on about, you’re not alone.

English is by no means a young language and it has changed significantly since its early years. However, the past decade or so has seen a huge change in the way we use the language directly as a result of technological developments and the social media boom.

What this means is that the English we are using to communicate often looks nothing like standard English. Even native-speakers can have difficulty understanding text speak.

So how has social media changed the way we use English?

Well, the obvious change is the use of acronyms in place of words. Social media often has character limitations so acronyms were soon utilised in order to be able to say what you want to say with fewer characters. What is interesting is the fact that these acronyms are now no longer only used on social media and have become quite common in everyday English usage.

Then there are all the new words which have been coined to be able to talk about technology and phenomena which didn’t exist before or which have changed usage from their common meaning: think of selfie, hashtag, tweet, Google and unfriend. Amazingly enough, these words have become so widespread that many of them have been accepted into official dictionaries.

Social media and technology have clearly played part a part in shaping the English language in its current form.

Is this something we should worry about?

Of course not. Languages change all the time and even though many teachers deplore the spelling abilities of young people these days, claiming this is the result of social media, there is no real evidence that our linguistic abilities have suffered as a result of these new language trends.

Should we be teaching these words in our EFL classrooms?

Yes and no. It can be fun to point out the most popular acronyms to our students, but if they use social media in English they are probably already aware of them. Spending too much time on them may be a bit of a waste of time considering how much English they still need to learn, bearing in mind that we try to teach English which is useful for our students – which LOL isn’t, necessarily.

Our tip for keeping up with technology-speak in the EFL classroom? Do it for fun and when necessary but don’t sacrifice other language for it.