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Day 17: The art of texting


The silence in the office was broken. My mobile phone was ringing out its familiar tune; the one that signals the arrival of a text message. I dived under my desk to try and find my phone in my handbag. I could hear it but I couldn’t see it.

The message read …

Haeya, i jst g0t my exam results frm th net an i pasd. so yay iv achevid ncea level w0n 🙂

My niece Amelia was letting me know her exam results. I was very excited for her. I wanted to congratulate her.

My automatic response was to phone her. In my mind this was so much faster and more convenient than replying by text. I don’t find texting instinctual. I get impatient with how long it takes me to write a message. My fingers seem too big for the minute keys. I am reminded of my former male Pacific Island learners who had very large hands and they found using an ordinary keyboard unnatural and uncomfortable. It took some adjusting for them to master this skill and the same is true of me when using the keys on a mobile phone to write a message or enter data. How women with long, manicured nails cope I have no idea.

I haven’t yet worked out a shorthand texting pattern that makes sense to me. Some people suggest removing all the vowels from words. Everybody seems to decide for themselves how to abbreviate words and so often it is a hit and miss affair as to whether the receiver understands the sender’s coding pattern. My sister Diana (the mother of six children including Amelia) finds texting a wonderful way to keep in touch with her children. The problem is that when she sends me messages she uses so many abbreviations that it can sometimes take me ages to decipher what she is saying. I on the other hand tend to painstakingly write out words in full unless I know an obvious abbreviation. My children find this rather amusing.

I have decided that learning this new skill is like new learning any new skill; it takes practice.

I watched Amelia and my youngest daughter, Mira, during the holidays. Their cell phones were always within reach or in their hands – mine is always somewhere in my bag. If I do take it out of my bag I tend to forget about it and leave it lying around at either home or work. Their phones alert them to a message and they hear it immediately – mine rings out in desperation, hoping I will hear it and more often than not I don’t. Amelia and Mira respond to their messages immediately – I may take hours if not days to respond unless I happen to have heard the phone as the message was coming through. They keep doing what they were originally doing while at the same time their fingers are busy texting. Now I thought I could multi-task but there is no way I can do this. I need to look at the keys to even work out which buttons to press for which letters. Maybe if I practiced more I too could develop lightening fast texting skills.

In the meantime I responded to Amelia to tell her how proud I was of her using a well developed skill of my own – long hand texting!

Ultimately all that matters is that the message gets through and is understood. As for my texting skills, maybe I need to forget about proper English in this form of communication and become a more phonetical abbreviator of words – after all, I have managed to learn to do this in online text chat.

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