Ralph Fiennes Laments The ‘Twitter Effect’ on the English Language

I’m English instructor in my day job (what, you think all I do is write for Daily Actor? I wish!), so I’m no stranger to the havoc that electronic communication has ravaged on the language.  My students regularly forget to capitalize the pronoun “i”, use “your” and “you’re” interchangeably, and don’t understand that smileys aren’t appropriate for a paper.

While a majority of my students know better, it is a growing problem, and it turns out I’m not the only one who realizes it: Schindler’s List star and Harry Potter villain Ralph Fiennes has recently blamed Twitter and our soundbite-obsessed media for dumbing down the English language.

“We’re in a world of truncated  sentences, soundbites and Twitter,” he explains to UK’s The Daily Mail.  “[Language] is being eroded — it’s changing. Our expressiveness and our ease with some words is being diluted so that the sentence with more than one clause is a problem for us, and the word of more than two syllables is a problem for us.”  

According to Fiennes, I’m not the only teacher who has seemed to notice this issue, as he adds, “I hear it, too, from people at drama schools, who say the younger intake find the density of a Shakespeare text a challenge in a way that, perhaps, [students] a few generations ago maybe wouldn’t have.”  Fiennes brings up a fascinating point: reading Shakespeare is tough enough when you have a mastery of the English language, so how will anyone who speaks in monosyllables hope to understand it?

Despite the difficult of Shakespeare for current students, Fiennes insists that it’s still important for students to learn his plays.  “I think we’re living in a time when our ears are attuned to a flattened and truncated sense of our English language, so this always begs the question, is Shakespeare relevant? But I love this language we have and what it can do, and aside from that I think the themes in his plays are always relevant.”

I’m with you, Fiennes — if our language deteriorates so might our appreciation for the art of the past.  Let’s hit those grammar books, people!

2 Comments

  1. zsuzsanna

    November 3, 2011 at 5:18 am

    I read the texts of Hungarian youth on the web and I sometimes don’t understand my mother language. The abbreviations are terrible even in my job. Mr. Fiennes is speaking of an international problem.

  2. Lance Carter

    November 3, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I’ve read some updates from people here in the US on Facebook… its happening here too. Sometimes it takes me a minute to figure out what they’re saying

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