STRAITS TIMES Singapore
Friday, November 1, 2002
SMS OK, but not 4 exams
By Sandra Davie
IF U can read dis, den u r clearly wif it.
You belong then to a rising number of mobile-phone users for whom SMS, or Short Message Service, language has become part of hip, everyday usage.
The problem is, SMS lingo has also crept into the examination scripts of school students here.
When the service was introduced in 1995, Singaporeans - especially youngsters - took to it like fish to water.
They invented a whole new array of short forms to facilitate communication. These contractions, usually seen on mobile phone screens, are now appearing in school assignments.
Eight out of 12 secondary schools contacted said there is no cause for alarm yet, but they have spotted some students doing away with punctuation marks, and spelling words like 'before' as 'b4' and 'would' as 'wld'.
Other students have contracted sentences as they do in e-mail, omitting articles and prepositions.
For example, instead of 'What time are you going to the cinema?', they write 'What time you going to cinema?'.
This is potentially a big problem, judging from the prevalence of SMS. Local service provider, M1, for instance, says its customers transmit more than 1.5 million messages a day.
Tampines Secondary principal Mr Neo Tick Watt, who is 'bewildered' by some of his students' coinages, is worried that efforts to promote the use of good English are 'being undone by SMS'.
Educators believe that most students are aware that SMS-speak is bad English but often resort to it out of laziness, or when they are short of time during tests and examinations.
But sometimes students do not realise it is wrong.