In today’s global online community, words matter. They matter so much, in fact, that they have given rise to numerous instances of social backlash over the past decade. Even more recently, with reckless tweets from the likes of Roseanne Barr to the “colorful language” of Anthony Scaramucci, we are learning what the real impact of language (and the words we use) can be.
The same rules apply even to those of us who aren’t quite as high-profile. Concerning education, the quality of linguistic communication has a direct and enduring effect on the quality of knowledge and understanding with which the student walks away from experience.
The power of words
The impact of language is immediately measurable, as our previous two examples demonstrate. In the former case, a hit television show that just had a very successful restart was scrapped over someone’s words. In the latter, the White House lost its communications director.
In marketing terms, words also have a tremendous impact. The New Yorker magazine, for example, saw record levels of traffic during the Scaramucci ordeal. Words also have the direct impact on how well websites and blogs are received and how well trafficked they become. Search Engine Optimization strategies are almost exclusively rooted in written content since that is what search engine algorithms notice first when ranking pages.
The advent of bot technology like Alexa and Siri are also changing how we approach language. While earlier versions of these applications included less forgiving algorithms, it is becoming easier over time to have virtual conversations with them. The developers who work on improving services like those already mentioned are working, right now, to create an even more organic experience for the user.
All of these examples make the same irrefutable point: big data in the digital age has elevated the impact of linguistics considerably, even in just the past few years. The way we interpret language on digital platforms is also unique.
Text in ALL CAPS signifies anger or yelling. We accentuate the point by adding 12 Punctuation Marks to the end of a sentence. In short, we have learned how to effectively type in a way that amplifies the voice behind the words and makes those words even more expressive. Now, an imaging technology that can interpret all of those nuances analyze them and provide insights into how people both interact and learn.
Digital linguistics and education
In education terms, the development of voice-recognition text and virtual help has serious potential to bring about change in nearly all areas of education. Imagine walking into a college classroom and being met by a virtual professor who can lecture both audibly and visibly at the same time.
Now imagine systems that can understand the language well enough to help with note-taking, tutoring, and even reading textbooks for students with various impairments. Interestingly enough, we don’t have to. The technology already exists in devices like the Smartpen, and more spontaneous and abstract applications similar to Siri are also being used and developed around the world already.
Teachers at all levels from kindergarten to college are benefiting from advances in the study of linguistics. In a typical high school classroom, for example, digital data collection can assess the kinds of words and phrases used by students in both organized and less-structured earning environments. This provides keen insights into the linguistic development of both individuals and entire peer groups. The data gathered identifies the areas where most students struggle and excel, allowing teachers to restructure curricula to optimize the learning experience for a whole class.
Even better, big data solutions can help teachers pinpoint weaknesses in language and vocabulary development, and also pinpoint commonly mispronounced words or those used in improper contexts. Imagine a world where nonsense words like “supposedly” and “irregardless” are eradicated from the English vocabulary. This is the kind of change that big data on linguistics is capable of bringing.
The sweeping impact of significant data impact on linguistics is readily observable and being implemented in many areas of both digital and traditional communication. The potential result of current and future advances in linguistic tech is genuinely limitless, especially in education. By providing the tools to make them better communicators, educators have the opportunity to create more opportunities for learning in their students. They also help set students up for later successes by helping them master language in more ways than ever before.