As I stand in front of my class every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 8am, I look at twenty five (or twenty, depending on the number of parties held the previous night) college freshmen who, for the most part, are utterly uninterested in the value of a research paper or the rules for comma placement in a sentence.
With the ascension of the word “twerk” into the English dictionary (defined as “to dance to hip-hop or pop music in a very sensual way typically by thrusting or shaking the buttocks and hips while in a squatting or bent-over position”), it is time to address whether or not the English language can adapt to handle the twenty-first century.
There is an apparent and heightened disconnect between academic/professional language and colloquial dialogue in the United States. The oxford comma is all but disbanded and capitalization appears to be on its way out as well. The question that arises is whether or not the English language is dying, or evolving? And is this potential evolution for the best?
I stand with the group that separates academic and professional language from the personal. When confronting an academic or writing a business proposal, it is important (and persuasive) to sound both educated and informed; using words such as “twerk” and phrases like “I literally cannot even like handle it right now” don’t convey maturity. Although not every professional, investor, or professor will catch a tiny comma slip it is still important to rely on more than spell check and editing software.
However, a duality such as the one I propose suggests at times that the English language might eventually split into two separate dialogues or even languages, such as the difference between Spanish and Portuguese. It also begs the question as to whether or not such a distinction will further ostracize certain individuals from potential jobs and advancements. Education is never equal, and not every teacher/professor/instructor has the same agenda or drive to instill his/her students with a working knowledge of the English language.
What I tell my students is to always keep in mind their audience when writing anything (Facebook post, e-mail, professional memo, or research paper). However, how long can one fight the change? Should we hold on to the traditional meaning of “English language,” or abandon it and embrace its successor?