In the last few days, a number of posts and blogs have settled into my consciousness and started to jostle for attention. I read somewhere – a #besig tweet probably – that more and more people are feeling overwhelmed by the volume of stuff that keeps pinging and buzzing and tooting and whooshing into their various inboxes. Today, from the same source, came an article that declares most bloggers are turning to facebook and Twitter because they prefer microblogging or what they want to say can be said in 140 characters. Nik Peachey posted a blog which had as its subject the crisis in eduation, possibly occasioned by the rise and rise of techno-tools in classrooms, which are peopled in the majority by “digital natives”, but guided by techno-innocents, and probably quite a few techno-virgins.
But all this has led me to wonder – not idly either – about the art of talking. Perhaps indeed it has become, or shortly will become an “art”. How much talking do we do each day? I mean actually face to face intelligent, meaningful talking, using proper words and complex sentences and following a line of thought or argument through to the end. I mean talking that conveys experience and feeling and thoughts and ideas and reactions and plans and dreams and wishes. How are these things conveyed in 140 characters? Are we reducing our lives to what we can and can’t fit into a tweet? What will or will not be deleted by some overworked, stressed out colleague with an overflowing inbox? What we feel we can expose about ourselves on facebook and our reactions reduced to “liking” someone else’s revelations?
But none of this is talking – it’s all texting and tweetspeak and symbols and emoticons and all that rich and beautiful vocabulary we used to use is locked away. People don’t talk any more.
And what of our students who want to speak in English, who want to be fluent and accurate and confident and funny and open and amiable and persuasive and ardent and passionate and clear and effective and engaged? How are we going to help them to do this when the world is demanding something else, when talking takes up time that no -one seems to have enough of any more, when the language of dreams and hopes and life itself seems no longer to be needed? When tweeting and posting and blogging and microblogging have taken away the deep resonance, the unique timbre, the glorious prosody that is speech?