Information & Opinion

Will loss of language skills lead to a breakdown in society?

“If we lose our language skills will we lose the ability to communicate with one another which will then lead to a breakdown in Society?”
The wonder of modern technology

In the last 20 years the internet has developed to such a degree that bricks and mortar reference libraries have virtually passed their sell-by date and become obsolete. Wherever you are in the world you have information on tap via Google search. With one of the greatest inventions imaginable available to all our language skills should be improving.

We have mobile telephone contact from virtually anywhere to anywhere. No more scrabbling around to find a public phone box in a thunder storm when your car has broken down.

Short of making you a cappuccino your PC can take the drudgery out of the mundane if you invest time in learning how to harness its power. Then you can use the time saved to advance your career, education, business and life at a faster pace.  Alternatively, as many do, you can use the time saving to laze or extend your leisure activities. The choice is yours.

The danger of modern technology

These are extracts from a post I wrote a while back.

 “Do you remember when you got your first mobile phone; how excited you were but how much time it took to set up and understand? And in those far off days it was just a PHONE. As they were developed, over the years, they got lighter and smaller. How brilliant it was and how happy you were then. But, my my, how things have changed since as the juggernaut of technology rolls on. It tramples us underfoot, leaving us confused in its wake, as it supplies us with never ending products which enable us to learn and communicate, faster and better”

But are we using them to our best advantage or merely as playthings? Are we wasting the opportunities they provide us with?

“Privacy is being, surely and not so slowly, eroded – You can’t go anywhere or do anything without your device – It feels like you are being stalked. Even though it’s twice the size of your old mobile phone it is not big enough to live alone. Like your dog, it must accompany you everywhere and you must never turn it off or tie it to a lamp post outside the grocer’s shop. It makes weird noises all day long and it takes you some time to realise that your pockets aren’t filled with parrots and cockerels and that your wife doesn’t fart as much as you thought she did. But because you have followed your children’s advice to the letter you are now at everyone’s beck and call 24/7. If you don’t respond within seconds to a communication it will be assumed that you have died. So you end up with constipation because you don’t want to be caught in the loo with your trousers down. Then you start to smell bad because you can’t afford the time to take a shower until 3am when everyone you don’t want to communicate with is asleep.”

Whether you find this amusing or not there is a serious message behind these words.

Is the value of social media perceived or real?

Social media has, without a doubt, had a profound impact on our lives but, hard as I look the real benefits are not apparently obvious. I will keep looking because, for some inexplicable reason I really do want to find those elusive benefits. And I have to admit that I do use Facebook, Twitter and a couple of others but that is purely to promote this blog otherwise I would never have entertained them. So, it is with admiration and a little envy that I look on those amongst us who have a more peaceful life because they have shunned the social media giants.   As this post is about communication, as it relates to language skills, I would like to think that the huge amount of time that people spend on Facebook would go some way to improving the ability to communicate effectively. Sadly, there appears to be no evidence to support that.

I see the misuse of the brilliant and powerful technology we have at our disposal leading instead to a more sedentary and isolated lifestyle for far too many young and not so young people.

Does information overload affect communication through poor language skills?

Swamped with mountains of unwanted and largely useless information, communication channels are becoming clogged up leading to frustration and stress.

The workload needed to filter out and control this invasion of privacy plus the often uncontrollable malware infiltration is driving normally sane people doolally.

If you are a blogger there is the continual temptation to switch off all feedback from the blogs you follow as your email inbox bursts at the seams.

Back in the day, it used to be exciting to hear the postman arrive in the hope that there might be a letter for me. Now I often don’t want to turn on my PC because I know that before I do anything today I will have to don my mail sorting office hat for at least an hour or more.

What are the dangers of losing language skills?

This, I have believed for many years, is a most serious issue and a real danger to society.

I like this dictionary definition of ‘language’, which I found whilst writing this post.

‘any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another.’

The reason I like it so much is that it spells out precisely what language is; a method by which people can communicate, intelligibly, in writing or orally.

We have developed and perfected language skills through this brilliant method over centuries so we have no excuses whatsoever for neglecting it. Yet this just what I see happening at an alarming rate.

Of even more concern is that no alternative method is being created. Maybe no-one sees it happening!!!

Considering that man lost most of his natural instincts, still retained by other creatures, long long ago, we are largely only left with the ability to see, speak and hear when it comes to communication. Therefore without language skills we are, to use the vernacular, buggered.

If we lose our language skills intelligible communication will become impossible. 
Have you experienced any of the following?:
  • People are reluctant to talk, preferring instead to communicate exclusively via text messages and emails.
  • A general inability to write concisely, poor grammar and truncated messages lead to misunderstanding, equalling time lost by more and more follow-up  messages like ‘I don’t understand. Please explain.’
  • This inability to write and speak in a comprehensible way, understandably, leads to confusion and frustration and so the messages continue back and forth. Nothing gets resolved and the communication breaks down through loss of language skills.
  • People now have shorter attention spans (e.g. can only deal with one written question at a time) which means that one email has to be broken into several shorter messages to achieve anything.
  • A short phone or Skype call may clear things up in a jiffy but for some inexplicable reason this is avoided at all costs. So the miscommunication continues.
 Resisting natural dialogue leads to impaired listening skills.
  • Reluctance to meet and speak, or just speak, erodes the natural human interaction process; the observation of body language through which building business or personal relationships and ideas flow. It is totally counter- productive.
  • Furthermore, the avoidance of this integral part of our pshyce erodes the ability to listen which is essential to any intelligible communication. Whether it be through fear, laziness or inability, whichever way, we will lose touch with ourselves and others if we are not listening. Hearing is not enough.
 The inevitable result is impaired social interaction.
  • Being shut off from the natural world. Being plugged in to a device almost permanently blocks out what is happening in the natural world around us.
  • This creates isolation and indifference resulting in disinterest in all things natural. We lose touch with reality if we disassociate ourselves with nature.
  • The inability to communicate is compounded leading to further withdrawal.
  • We will rapidly lose control if we allow ourselves to be dragged into a silent world of robotic, pseudo interaction without a whimper.
“We have all the tools we need to be able to communicate and interact more effectively than at any time in our history. But without the desire to educate our children through our languages and the understanding that those languages must be preserved we will see the breakdown of society much quicker than we can imagine.”

7 thoughts on “Will loss of language skills lead to a breakdown in society?

  1. I fell prey to my smartphone while I wanted to protect my teenage children from falling prey to it. I lost the battle. But my written communication has gone up much since I am a victim of modern technology. I am lucky that I grew up in a society without smartphones, at least I was able to experience both worlds. And I am able to explain and use the advantages and disadvantages of both communication worlds.

    1. I think like me you are lucky to have grown up pre-smartphone. But more fortunate to help the young by explaining the need to preserve language. I am lucky to be pre-windows and had one of the first IBM PC’s so I understand DOS and the basics. I have kept right up to date since 1981 and have just built a high end PC which is my work and communications hub. Even though I do not have big fingers I still cannot use a tablet (I do have one for emergencies only) or a smartphone (I do not possess one) without wanting to throw either into the bin in exasperation. I admire those with telescopic vision and who are dextrous enough but am not envious because I am fortunate to have no use for either. I do still possess a cell-phone for emergencies only (Like when driving).It only cost me 100THB ($3) so anyone is welcome to steal it if they wish. When I am stationary I have no need to turn it on as I am usually available on email or Skype.

  2. I’m way behind on comments, but came back to this essay as one close to my feelings. * I have sat in cars, gone to meetings and even lunch- with people who spend time staring into their iPhones – or worse talking to someone while I wait for them to finish. Another time someone put me on hold and never came back – explaining later that it was “an important call – she knew I’d understand.”
    *I sent a contractor a list of what I expected done before he made his bid – by email ( OK I do like email some of the time). Later when he went over-budget without completing the job, he said he never read it because he only reads emails on his phone and if it is over a line or two, it is too long!
    (An advantage to email is that you can avoid long winded calls from the tedious people who have no filter that says “Hmm she hasn’t said anything for 1/2 an hr. See I was raised without a phone – really. I have a filp-phone and am pressured to get an iPhone – yeah then I can be available to the world 24/7)
    *Do I feel overwhelmed? Yes. I “r.etired” and thought I’d have time for my writing in the morning and to pursue my other interests in the afternoon. Hmm both of these priorities have taken a back seat to emails and internet…. so it’s not just you!
    * Have you noticed that kids can’t read clocks anymore? – unless they are digital. Now kids can’t spl becz they txt.
    Ok I’ll stop! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and letting me vent!

    1. That’s brilliant Cinda. Now I don’t feel so lonely any more. If you read my post some while back on ‘Mobile Devices'[] you probably won’t be surprised to know that, although I have a very basic mobile phone I only use it when I drive in case of emergency. Otherwise it is never on!! Keep well. James

  3. Totally agree with your analogies. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be over fifty, will always be able to converse in a friendly and caring manner, as we were subjected to cordial and responsive means of communication. Good manners, good diction and verbal consideration have been bestowed in our minds and will last forever. The young people of today are faced with a completely different outlook. Everything seems to be done for them. We only have to stop our own conversations in a restaurant, and observe two young people near us boldly playing with their smart phones, completely oblivious to the interaction that would normally be required. Small headphones make people constantly distant from what is going on around them. No wonder there are so many pedestrian accidents nowadays. Mobiles are an excuse to be distracted from others in their physical social network. Mobiles take precedence over everything else. How rude have people become? You only have to look a short way to prove that!

    1. Thank heaven there are a few of us dinosaurs left Dennis. The post I referred to , and forgot to bookmark, expands on what you say here. I have been wanting to follow it up with this one for some time and finally got round to it a few days ago. It has been a hobby horse of mine for years and I was beginning to think I was the only one who can see the dangers. The problem is not the technology, which I embrace with gratitude, because it helps me so much. It’s the people who don’t have a clue about the real benefits so end up misusing it. Now I feel I’m not expressing myself too well. Rather say, some people think if they buy an expensive camera they will take good pictures. When a photographer knows taking good pictures is nothing to do with the camera. But I do think the serious recognition, that if we lose our languages we will be buggered, has escaped most people. Thanks for commenting and keep well. James

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