Danielle Viegas: We’re All Bilingual Now

Advanced Cyber/IO, Cultural Intelligence
Danielle Villegas
Danielle Villegas

We’re All Bilingual Now

In his most recent Good Morning Geek post called Internet-Speak, Max Swisher discusses “…a new problem for modern people: We must all be bilingual and use the appropriate language depending on context. Teens in school must know how to talk online in lolspeak and the next day write a paper in diverse, formal English.”

Max introduces us to “Arrow,” a mythical person from the city of Hindrawyt in Indochinalumbilan. Arrow is a well-studied teenager, who has learned classic English prior to coming to the U.S. Once here, Arrow is faced with a new language. Max calls it “lolspeak” and we also know it as internet-speak.

Max brings up a number of points that got me thinking.


Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

Even those of us who speak only English are now bilingual, at least in our reading and writing. Almost everyone I know texts or uses some type of instant messenger application. We all know how impossible it is to type on a cellphone – particularly the latest models that do not have articulated keyboards. The fact that we are all using shortcuts when it comes to spelling and grammar is no surprise. Why write, “See you later” when you can write C U? or “talk to you later” instead of TTYL? or “Gosh that was hilariously funny” instead of LOL? It simply takes too much time, effort, and repetitively strained thumbs to communicate.

Another point Max brings up is that we use emoticons to indicate how we feel. It’s interesting that we’ve gone back to graphic symbolism (think hieroglyphics) to represent feelings. Even on devices that don’t have graphic capabilities, we use:


  • : )  for happy
  • : ( for sad
  • : D for very happy
  • : P for sticking your tongue out
  • <3 for I love you


And the list goes on and on (and on). How creative we are! Even before computers, when we were typing letters to people, I don’t recall ever typing :) to indicate that I was “just joking” about something. So much of our communication is without audio now, without intonation, that we use symbols for emotion in emails all the time.

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