The influence of short message language on composition writing among grade 12 learners in selected schools in Kalulushi district of the Copperbelt province of Zambia

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Chibale, Mary Mulubwa
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University of Zambia
This study investigated the influence of SMS language on academic composition writing among Grade 12 learners in four schools from Kalulushi District of the Copperbelt province of Zambia. The study sought to establish why learners use SMS language in their compositions despite them being taught formal writing in compositions. Being the final Grade at senior secondary level, Grades 12 learners were expected to attain proficiency in standard academic writing. The study used both qualitative and quantitative research approaches (mixed methods) and it applied a concurrent triangulation design. This was done by administering mixed questionnaires with both open and closed ended questions to 32 teachers of English language and 100 Grade 12 learners coming from four selected schools. Likert scale questions were used for closed questions for both learners and teacher’s questionnaires in order to investigate their perceptions on the influence of SMS on Grade 12 learners’ compositions. A composition test was also administered first to Grade 12 learners then questionnaires were administered concurrently. Composition scripts were marked by the researcher paying particular attention to SMS language features. Qualitative data was analysed by marking the essay scripts and by content analysis. Quantitative data from Likert scale questionnaires were analysed using a statistical package of SPSS version 23 to come up with frequencies and percentages on SMS influence and use in compositions. The words that were influenced by SMS language in essays were identified and counted physically by the researcher after finishing the marking of composition scripts. Their total frequency of occurrence in all the four instruments and in each test script used was calculated. The average and standard deviation of the number of words influenced by SMS language in the test scripts were calculated to see how much SMS language influenced composition writing among Grade12 learners. The researcher took note of all the words that were influenced by SMS language in the essays. The learners’ composition with the least number of words influenced by SMS language had four words while the composition with the highest number of words influenced by SMS had 38. Findings revealed that 77.8% of Grade 12 learners agreed that the influence of SMS language on composition writing was very clear. Learners used SMS language often times in their composition writing. This situation highly influenced learners’ essay writing as it was evident on how often their written composition test scripts, book review results and questionnaire responses showed.The majority of teachers of English adding up to 75% perceived the influence of SMS language as negative. This situation highly influenced the spellings, punctuations, grammar, and sentence structure and paragraph length of learners’ formal writing. Although the minority of learners perceived the influence of SMS language on their formal composition writing as positive, above 70% of learners agreed that their formal writing were highly influenced by SMS language and this situation jeopardized their final score. This was confirmed by the Examinations Council of Zambia final examiners’ report for (2014). Lists and frequencies of SMS words were part of the main findings where over 4500 words were influenced by SMS language in overall data collection instruments. These findings for this study showed how Standard English and the rules of grammar, phonetics and the orthographic rules were violated by SMS spellings and other text features. Some of these SMS word categories identified included number and letter homophones, contractions, G-clippings, punctuation errors, vowel deletion, acronyms and abbreviations as well as non-standard spellings which came out to be the most common. It was therefore recommended that all teachers of English and other subjects need to ensure that all Grade 12 learners use full forms of words in all subjects when writing formally. Learners also need to use full English words instead of SMS words when texting to avoid transferring the habit of short cuts and unconventional spellings and abbreviations in their written compositions .Workshops and CPDs for English language teachers were also recommended.
A Thesis in Education
English language--Composition and exercises. , English language--Study and teaching