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Is this normal for a 10 year old?

Discussion in 'English' started by intheken, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. I recently had an online IM chat with my nephew. I try to speak to all of my nieces and nephews at least once a month via Skype as I rarely have time to see them any more and coming from a very close family I find it important to maintain contact with the children as well as the adults. Sadly this time around my microphone was playing up so we decided to IM.

    I became increasingly concerned throughout our chat as his grammar and spelling were awful however more alarming was his lack of understanding when I corrected him.

    Now my grammar isn't perfect and I appreciate that grammar can become lax when chatting online or texting and that proper grammar can be quite hindering to the flow of a good conversation but that doesn't change the fact that his, to my mind, was extraordinarily poor.

    I first noticed that he doesn't use punctuation at all. I ignored this at first even though I found it irksome, we were of course chatting online and such things are to be expected. He then said "brb i got go tolet" then a few moment later "im back". I couldn't hold back any longer so I said (or should I say typed) "Didn't you mean 'brb' I have to go to the toilet" and "I'm back now"?
    He said "i dont get it". I said "Your grammar, spelling and punctuation in your last two messages wasn't very good."
    We then had a bit more chitchat, mainly about how he is getting on at school. I asked him what homework he had and he said that he had some English homework. I asked him what it was and he said that he had to 'play some games and stuff on bbc bite sise'. After correcting him on his spelling and punctuation again (I felt bad doing it) I thought it was time to speak with my sister and ask her what she thought about online games (albeit educational) being used as homework. I asked him to put her on and he said 'shes not here'. I asked where she was and he said 'she is gone shops for milk'. I then said don't you mean 'she has gone to the shop for some milk' and again he said 'I don't get it'.

    (In case you are wondering, my nephew is a couple of months shy of 11 and will be attending senior school next September.)

    When I spoke to my sister a few moments later over the phone about his poor spelling, punctuation and grammar she said that she was worried herself for a while but that his teachers had assured her that he was a mid to high achiever in most of his classes and that English was one of his stronger subjects.

    Now I still can't get my head around this as I would have said that he was quite far behind. I know that my sister is very supportive as a parent when it comes to education and that the school he goes to gets good Ofsted reports. Based on that short online chat would you guess that English was one of his stronger subjects? Am I being too harsh or am I right in thinking that he either has a very incompetent teacher or the entire teaching staff are just average teachers?

    The only other explanation is that the whole school is full of under-achievers so the staff haven't noticed!

    Any thoughts from teachers or ex-teachers would be much appreciated.
  2. mediadave

    mediadave New commenter

    I'd say that sounds pretty normal for a child who's talking over instant messenger. Text language tends to be what they - and some adults(!) - favour.
    If he can write properly with pen and paper then I wouldn't be too concerned, particularly if the school say he's a mid-high achiever. You can't judge a child's writing based on one conversation over instant messenger!
    Personally I'd be more worried about him being left home alone...
  3. I agree with mediadave! It is quite normal for children to communicate in this manner via IM/Facebook etc. In fact, only today I was discussing the use of slang, incorrect spelling and punctuation in text messaging with my year 10 students (they are studying it as part of their spoken language controlled assessment for GCSE). As long as his teachers are not concerned then I wouldn't worry!
  4. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    Totally normal - until you're quite a lot older, the point of instant messaging is that it's instant, and thinking about spelling, punctuation, etc, is of secondary importance.

    Omitting "to the" does, I admit, annoy me, but that's part of how children often speak these days. I don't think, however, that the other examples you give are of any significance whatsoever.

    In fact, when IMing with my friends as a teenager (and I was always achieving top A*s including for spellings etc), I did think that those other kids who persisted in writing in complete sentences, with capital letters, and full stops at the end, were being really quite pretentious. ;-)
  5. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    I have students who write A* essay with perfect grammar who write in distinctively terrible IM speech when collaborating in forums. You should see IM as a mixture of spoken and written language - he is perhaps writing like every 10 year old does. I only write in full sentences because it is quicker for me to do so, unthinking!

    Also, have you seen the BBC bitesize website? The grammar activities are decent. That, and they are relatively contextualised. Not a substitute, but a worthwhile addition to any teacher's repertoire.
  6. I am more concerned about his lack of understanding about the correct uses of IS and HAS.
    I was wondering when someone would mention that. What makes you think he was home alone?

    His older teenage sister was there as was his step-father but I think his step-father is a m.oron and I prefer to speak with intelligent people when push comes to shove.
  7. This is exactly what concerns me. I think his teachers should be concerned (retrained or sacked ideally but at least concerned) because to my mind a year 6 student should know how to use IS and HAS.
  8. I have and I wasn't impressed. The KS2 activities were very dumbed down IMO.
  9. I understand your concern... I can reassure you as an English teacher that IM/text conversations are a whole world away from how students behave in the real world of foraml written conversation. I have A* students who text/IM in appaulling language - you would think I had taught them nothing; yet their controlled assessments and book work show exemplrary English.
    I don't like 'text speech' either and could rant for a LONG time about it - BUT it is part of modern life and as edicators we mus embrace new technologies/forms of communication and focus on explaining the important difference between levels of formlity when writing. Your nephew's 'I don't get it' could mean 'I don't understand why I need to write differnetly' not 'I don't know how to spell/use thw right words'.
    There are two things you can do:
    Firstly, express to your nephew the clear difference in style between every day written language and 'text' speech.
    Secondly, if you are still genuinely concerned why not look at his English book and see for yourself? If his English book is like his IM conversation then follow it up. I amconfident his book will be totally different - I have seen it SO many times.
    Re: BBC bitesize games - they are FAB! Great grammar rules etc and taught in an engaging way. Just because students don't realise they are learning doesn't mean the games are not helpful.
  10. laticsbird

    laticsbird New commenter

    scarter21 - sorry, I can't help it but (trying to say this in a whisper) please tell me that your spelling mistakes were because you were in a rush[​IMG]
  11. Haha - yes very much so! Dinner was on the table and I was shouting "just a minute I want to finish this!" whilst typing furiously.There lies the danger of not checking your work... my dinner was delicious and still hot though. [​IMG]

  12. laticsbird

    laticsbird New commenter

    haha...brilliant! We're domestic goddess teachers[​IMG]
    Have a fab evening - here's a drink from me to you [​IMG]
  13. I'd say it's perfectly normal. The difference between 'textspeak' and formal writing is huge.
    I write quite formally on forums but I drop punctuation, change spellings etc when I'm using IM. To do otherwise would make me look like a bit of a dick, tbh, which is why I don't mind. It's like an unspoken rule. Only old people and pedants type in full, punctuated sentences on IM. I am not ready to submit to old age just yet :p
    I imagine that when you tried to correct your nephew he rolled his eyes and mentally typed 'woteva'
    He probably knows how to use 'is' and 'has' but chooses not to. If it's a dialectal form he's using then it probably has some prestige in his social group.
  14. I think my lengthy OP was quite misleading. I do understand the difference between IM/text-speak and formal speech and the irksome language he was using/mistakes he was making I forgave quite quickly as I know it is an entirely different way of communicating but my actual issue was/is his total and genuine lack of understanding as to why he should not have used IS instead of HAS. He wasn't confused about anything else except why wasn't it okay to say 'mum is gone shops' instead of 'mum has gone to the shops' and therein lies my concern.

    My secondary concern is that his school seem to think that his general knowledge of English and its proper uses is at a perfectly acceptable level for his age and that he is in fact one of the stronger pupils in his year (and by proxy the whole school as he is in year 6). This worries me. If he has trouble with some aspects of basic language, grammar and correct use at his age and his school thinks that that is normal then I can only surmise that all of the children in his school are, forgive me, extraordinarily dense for their age or that his school has low standards. I cannot imagine it being the first so I can only assume that his school has low standards and coupled with their good Ofsted report I can only surmise that standards are generally low and most likely deteriorating.

    I should probably also say that I find his vocabulary extremely limited for his age. When stuck for words he often reverts to two types of slang. Generic London slang that I understand perfectly (the type that has been prevalent in working class London families for a few generations) and 'Yoot' slang that seems to change every few weeks apart from the types of words that children think they invented but were frequently used by people 2-3 times their age when they were young (like 'sick' 'deep' 'long' 'dry' 'time' and 'bare') which I can also understand or catch the general gist.

    I have dismissed this in the past as he is quite a social boy so I assumed he just picked them up but when I think about it his older sister (by 3 years) doesn't speak like that at all and has a good to strong vocabulary for her age group and always has done to my knowledge.

    Maybe I am just worrying too much and taking more from it than I should...

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