The English language has been twisted, translated and most recently, tweeted more than any other in the past decade. Social media has become a facilitator in the spread of English across the globe and for non-Native speakers, a doorway to be introduced into the language.
“I think English has gotten a lot bigger with social media,” ESL teacher Sarah Manos said. “A lot of students now have the opportunity to keep learning outside of school.”
Before social media, English was exclusively learned through socialization or education in a traditional classroom setting, neither of which are greatly mobile. Now, English can be accessed by a mobile device anywhere with apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all being major channels of communication that primarily use English.
“Social media can help us understand different cultures because you can see posts about the daily life within a culture,” once ESL student and senior Lyle Higgins said.
Social media also represents a directly usable means for the facilitation of English that not only helps students learn, but socialize. By joining the millions interconnected on social media with the click of a button, non-Native speakers have an easy segue to a culture and language they may not be familiar with.
“While there are differences in language, the impact of social media does bring a greater understanding of culture together,” Bulgarian immigrant and senior Iryna Kidyk said. “Sure there’s lot of slang, especially with teens, but social media encourages a similar reaction from everyone.”
According to Pew Research, 77% of high school students in America use Facebook, 27% use Instagram and 20% use Twitter. While this number may skew greatly depending on the region, the vast amount of high schoolers using social media have overall contributed to creating their own online culture with memes and statuses allows forfor non-Native speakers to join in.
“Everyone has their own way to learn English,” Higgins said. “If you have friends who know English, using social media just makes learning easier.”
However, like all cultures, linguistic shifts do occur. Like a dialect, online language might utilize slang and abbreviations to move a message across that does not mimic the structure of formal English. For both Native and non-Native speakers alike, online speech may be confusing and hard to distinguish from formal English.
“In classes, you might see some students use ‘u’ instead of ‘you’, so a couple errors do get translated,” Manos said. “To combat that, we just make sure that students are aware of differences in online or informal settings and a classroom one.”
However, linguistic changes shift between all settings, be it on social media sites or not. The vast amount of people suggests that social media has become a lingua franca to bridge English for Native and non-Native speakers alike, be it online and in real life.
“Social media brings together cultures faster and easier,” Kidyk said. “People can share things regardless of linguistic barriers and understand.”