Multilingual texting

This evening our older son (who is home from college for three weeks) was chatting online with a friend from high school, who is currently an exchange student in France. Jokingly I asked what language they were chatting in, knowing that my son chose to study German when Spanish did not fit into his high school schedule, because he hated the sound of spoken French.

Naturally they were chatting in English, but it made me wonder what chatting in French would look like. I typically write out words in full even in online chat. (I knew a few texting abbreviations, but something in me resists using them.) But I know that people who text regularly become adept at squeezing a lot of meaning into relatively few letters. Often it is by leaving out a lot of vowels – what would that do in a language full of vowels like Spanish or Italian?

I found it somewhat difficult to find examples, though I wasn’t initially sure if that was just because it was difficult to find search terms that would not turn up too much other material. Anytime I put “foreign languages” in my search, I got references to texting as a “foreign language.” When I tried specific languages such as French or German, I got links to online translation services or dictionaries.

I did find a few, but I stopped looking after reading this very informative article on the whole texting phenomenon and whether it will “degrade” the language. Author David Crystal explains that people seem particularly reluctant to share their text messages “with an inquiring linguist.” (Are they afraid, perhaps, of having their communication analyzed by someone who will find it lacking?)

In addition to that, when it comes to finding examples in other languages, there is the fact that so many speakers of other languages incorporate elements from English into their texting. As Crystal explains, English is seen as “cool.” However, I found another article that offers numerous examples from various languages.

Here are some examples from the two articles, along with a few I had found on my own. As you can see, other languages do the same trick of using numbers that sound like parts of words.

HDGDL = Hab dich ganz doll lieb (I love you completely doll)
aws = auf wiedersehen (good-bye)
gn8 = gute nacht  (good night) [Note: 8 = acht]
8ung! = Achtung! (Careful!)
BS = Bis Später (see you later)

BAP = bon après-midi (Good afternoon)
stp = s’il te plait (please)
koi29 = quoi de neuf (What’s new?) [Note: 2 = deux, 9 = neuf]
MDR = mort de rire (the equivalent of LOL)
PDP = pas de problème (no worries)

tq = te quiero (I love you)
sl2 = saludos (greetings – for either hello or good-bye) [Note: 2 = dos]
a2 = adios (good-bye)
nka = nunca (never)
mx = mucho (much)
qndo = cuando (when)

I did finally find a lengthy list of French texting abbreviations. My son’s friend has struggled with learning to speak French. I wonder if she knows how to text en français.


2 Responses to Multilingual texting

  1. hannahmiller215 says:

    Merci beaucoup! What a great article. Since Wikileaks started I have been using multiple languages in Twitter occasionally – have to autotranslate but I have found some awesome folks.

  2. Peter L says:

    At a foreign language conference, I attended a session on pop culture and language. The presenter, who was from Madrid, handed out a copy of an IM conversation between his sin and a friend, using Spanish texting abbreviations. After a few times through, I was able to figure out the meanings. But I agree that messaging has ruined the written word. I get abbreviations on student papers all the time.

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