Really fly: the language of the 21st century


An emoji here, a GIF there. Voice messages instead of personal conversations. The Internet is changing the way people communicate, especially among children and young people. What does this mean for the identity of our society? And do social media, Whatsapp and Co. atrophy our emotional and language skills?

Contemporary language culture: more than just emojis?


Unlike the Latin, the modern languages of our time are still very much alive. This means that they take up the currents in their surroundings, react to trends and adapt them. This is basically a good thing, after all nothing is worse than standing still. Even if the contemporary language culture, consisting of abbreviations, emojis and GIF’S, may seem questionable to the habit-loving average citizen at first glance. Anyone who hopes for a simple and old-fashioned-romantic “Do you want to go to the cinema?” will usually be left disappointed in 2020. “Cinema?” is what they call it today, followed by a popcorn emoji. There’is no trace of real verbs. Since without it, it just writes faster, reads more fluently and is simply more convenient.

Language in Web 2.0

Social networks as THE communication channels of our time reinforce the changes in language. We communicate faster and faster, there is no time for long talk. It is therefore no surprise that communication on social networks is also characterized by laziness and the constant lack of time. Abbreviations and English acronyms determine the written exchange on Facebook and Instagram. “please” becomes “pls”, “thank you” becomes “thx”. Numbers are no longer written out,  a tap on the right key is enough. Articles have long ceased to be part of common language; Not to mention punctuation marks and the correct use of the dative. Quite fly, you could say here, if there wasn’t any uncertainty about the correct use of the youth word of 2016. By definition, being fly usually refers to people, so whether a circumstance or an event can be fly remains questionable.

❞ What one may perceive as a cultural loss is a sign of creative realization for the other. ❝

Loss of language skills?

According to a study by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy, only 36 percent of 14 to 19-year-olds consider personal conversation to be a pleasant form of communication1. The communication of the youth takes place almost exclusively on the virtual way. This is not only convenient, but is particularly useful for people who quickly become unsure in discussions or want to avoid conflicts. We maintain control during a virtual exchange. If the other person says something that does not suit us, we resolve the situation by simply logging out. Eliminating emotions is not only a concern from a psychological point of view. Language skills also suffer when we no longer use the corresponding strands in the brain. This is roughly comparable to a musician who no longer plays his instrument. Spelling and grammar also seem to be of limited importance in social networks and Whatsapp chats. While some faux pas may still be smiling, they show a widespread symptom of gross violations of the general rules of the German language.

What does language say about a society?


So we are increasingly in a society that consciously turns away from previous language habits and seems to forego all kinds of rules. But doesn’t the fluency of a society reflect its cultural roots somewhere? What does it say about our society when complete sentences are in short supply? These are questions that we have to face, whether we like it or not. Because what appears to us as a trend now, as a youth language or slang, could at some point become a common form of behavior. At the latest when letters from the tax office are to be understood at the first reading. And even so, or precisely because language is always changing, we should deal with what language means for ourselves – instead of demonizing today’s youth in the tried and tested “Previously everything was better” manner. After all, language is also a kind of self-presentation. So what one may perceive as a cultural loss is a sign of creative realization for the other. In the land of poets and thinkers, a certain level of creativity should please.

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