‘En plan…’: University students and expression beyond 280 characters


Let the teacher raise his hand who, after asking one of his students for an explanation of a problem or an argument in an oral presentation in class, has not ever heard this answer:
“In plan … I just don’t know how to explain it …”

The current educational system has a gap when it comes to the communicative competence of students. They enter university without a clear command of their own language , and that despite the fact that written expression, reading comprehension and expression are present in the criteria and objectives of many subjects – not only those called letters. oral.

In fact, in the regulations, the first competence of the curriculum in Secondary Education and Baccalaureate is “linguistics”. Future doctors, future lawyers or future architects must know how to communicate their ideas.

The influence of Twitter

You can count a lot in 280 characters, Twitter’s new measure. No one expects deep reflection on them, although there may be. The problem is believing that this way of expressing oneself should be transferred to other environments and that anything goes equally on the networks, on a blog or in any digital environment.

This becomes an inconvenience when it is shown that students do not know how to handle a page to answer an exam question that requires a broad explanation . Although it cannot be generalized and there are students who do it according to their educational level. Not everything is bad or good; there are intermediate states in the influence of the use of screens and the loss of linguistic awareness and communicative competence.

But the students of the current educational system recognize that they do not know how to express themselves either orally or in writing fluently and that this hinders their communication beyond a screen.

Develop language awareness

Language is the expression of thought and its social dimension should make us reflect on its importance. In fact, it is the point to take into account when approaching the study of language as a subject in students.

It is not the first time that this field has been studied and researched. However, there is more information on the improvement of linguistic competence in the teaching of foreign languages ​​than in the native one. It would be a mistake to assume that we have mastered it simply because it is our mother tongue and that we have learned it organically. Students have linguistic ability but do not develop language awareness .

As teachers we must awaken that awareness, ensuring that curiosity and creativity when using the language emerge, since these mechanisms will directly affect the correct use of the language and the reason for its structures and elements.

Read the “instruction manual”

Working with the tongue is like facing a microwave. The device comes with instructions that we never read because we think we know how to use it. And of course we use it, but we underuse it, since surely there are many functions that we could benefit from and that we did not even know it had.

This is how linguistic competence is: from the basic level, when we express ourselves in our childhood, to a more elaborate one in a university stage. Between them, various stages are traversed that should correspond to the different educational stages.

Communicating is more than talking

The arrival at the university allows us to face an academic reality that needs to measure our oral and written discourse. That reality collides with the truth. If we measure it with the existing scales in the learning of foreign languages ​​according to the European framework , would our students also have the B1 or B2 required in English in Spanish? Understanding –reading and listening comprehension–, speaking –expression and oral interaction– and writing are the three general descriptors on which these levels are based.

All educational programs defend the learning of other languages ​​in the first years of schooling since the learning capacity is greater at those ages. If the linguistic competence and its oral and written expressions in the mother tongue were more dealt with in the last years of Primary Education, we would be preparing the ground for it to take hold in secondary school at another level: debates , preparation of newspapers, magazines or programs radio, contests , etc. Initiatives that exist and work but are not global and should be.

Sometimes knowing how to present something can be more important than the presentation itself: hence the importance of language and its role in verbal and non-verbal communication.

Teachers of language or of any subject must teach that language is the essential function of the mind and that everything is expressed in a learned language. Linguistic structures prepare us to understand and assimilate the structures of reality. Our intelligence, our memory are what allow us to assimilate, produce and reproduce messages.

And, without messages, without counting our characters, you know, we do not exist.

Author Bio: Inmaculada Sanz Mateos is Associate Professor. Department of Spanish Language at the University of Valladolid