According to a recent report in Bulgarian-language daily Monitor (in Bulgarian
), an alleged "SMS mania" was responsible for the inability of the average Bulgarian teenager to write to standards of grammatical correctness in their native language.
Children allegedly had problems "switching from one set of signs to another," according to one teacher quoted by Monitor.
In one breath with the "SMS mania," the internet and, of course, the subtitles for movies that have been shared over p2p networks were blamed for any grammatical poverty that allegedly existed among Bulgarian teenagers.
Lastly, learning foreign languages at an early age, according to the teachers quoted by Monitor, led to an inability to use proper word order in Bulgarian.
I would never dream of thinking of myself as a standard for anything. Yet judging by the number of grammatical and translation errors that I, as a foreigner, am able to find in Bulgarian-language subtitles for movies broadcast on major national channels, I am willing to bet that the problem lies a lot deeper. And, contrary to conservative cultural beliefs, the problem is not with computers or mobile phones.
There are many reasons why SMSs in Bulgarian are written in ASCII (a stripped down version of the Latin alphabet, that has done away with any accented characters for the benefit of the easily confused) and many of these reasons are poor technical and interface design. But that is a topic for another time.
Within the space of one SMS - 160 characters - in Bulgarian, but written in ASCII, using a 4 to substitute a ч because of visual similarity; using a 6 for a ш for aural closeness; using a q for a я or a y for an ъ because those are the ASCII key-equivalent under which these Cyrillic letters are hidden when you use a phonetic Bulgarian Cyrillic computer keyboard, shows an incredible ability to construct meaning through associations across a number of senses simultaneously.
Instead of being impoverished, these children have a richness that their teachers will likely never fully grasp.
Ironically, some of these associations could, with time, change if schools were to use their existing IT classes to actually teach children something, like how to type using a BDS (Bulgarian National Standard) keyboard that does not rely on phonetic associations with ASCII.
As long as education in Bulgaria still relies on pen and paper more than on modern technology, blaming technology for education’s inability to teach, is nothing but an easy cop-out.
Teachers who blame technology or the rest of modern society for that matter, for their own failure to teach do nothing but underline their own incompetence. But they are only half as incompetent as the journalists who fail to write these stories with the necessary amount of critical analysis.