NAME OF THEORY: THE WRONG ‘SPELL’ EFFECT
HYPOTHESIS: The advent of technology to correct our spelling mistakes has made us a little less literate.
OBSERVATION: This theory is majorly based on personal observation and experience. In school, when technology in India was still not as rampant as now, we used to make an effort to spell. Spelling has always been an important aspect in our education system and more often than always a chuck of our marks depended on it. We were taught how to spell from a very tender age and that learning never really stopped as there are too many words in the English Dictionary. So unless you were one of those Spelling Bee Champs, the chances of you knowing and spelling ALL the words were close to slim. So students, in particular, would strive to spell words right. Even adults for that matter were good at spelling. By heart the spelling, ingrain it in our minds by writing it over and over again, repeating it orally or breaking down the words phonetically to get them right were different methods of learning how to spell. For the longest time we depended on these abilities (spelling phonetically in particular) to spell words we heard for the first time. Those were the times, we knew how to spell…or at least made an ernest attempt to.
Then came technology in all its splendour. It made almost every aspect of our lives easier. We in turn have consciously or unconsciously evolved and adapted ourselves to accept technology in all its luxury. Every coin has two sides and technology is no exception. For example, cell phones. No arguments about it being a novel invention but we now are increasingly depended on our cell phones to constantly be ‘in touch’ with the world. This ‘addiction’ if I may, has absorbed us… affecting our daily activities.
Cell phones have an inbuilt dictionary, Microsoft Word has a dictionary/thesaurus & spell check, Google and other search engines too correct our spelling.
ANALYSIS: Although good spelling ability is not a gift bestowed on all of us but the spell check option of these and more media have made us more reliant on them. The effort to even attempt to spell has reduced tenfold mainly because we know that there is spell check to do that for us. Past scientific research shows that the human mind can recognise words even if the starting and ending alphabets remain the same and the letters in between are in random order. I feel that the mind remembers words that way. We mostly know the letters that constitute a word and then go on to put them in order to make sense out of it.
With the predictable spelling on mobile and computer, we leave out the part where we re-order the alphabets. Instead, we leave that to technology. Another main reason is our mind thinks faster than our hands move. So in a bid not to lose the train of thought, we type an approximate word and bank on the spell check in MS Word to underline it red or Google to ask us ‘Did you mean: _____’. This also has given birth to the SMS language that we frequent in, another reason why our spelling has taken the back seat.
Grammar too has been adversely affected by this phenomenon. With omission of almost half the alphabets in words and sentences, there’s a significant drop in writing and researching skills. The greatest disappointment felt by the English language. This trend will continue until people realise to differentiate between formal and informal English and the art of keep one away from the other.