Bilingual teenagers….

This past weekend my 14-year old granddaughter came to visit with a friend. While these delightful girls were here, they taught me something very significant. There are actually two languages for girls this age.

There is “teenspeak” and there is “adultspeak.” The difference is quite astounding. The first one has an unlimited vocabulary of words and a vernacular unintelligible to most people over twenty. The second is an economy of words that would make a mime proud.

Both languages have a specific purpose. “TS”, as it shall hereafter be known, is used when conversing with friends by way of tweeting, skypeing, emailing and texting. “AS” is used when speaking with adults and consists of six basic words. They are, in no particular order of importance: yes, no, maybe, sorta, kinda, and OK.

“TS” is quite noticeably made up of many acronyms and abbreviations, no doubt spurred on by the 144 character limitation for tweets, as well as the bedeviling need to communicate at a breakneck pace. This is probably a good thing because even the youngest of thumbs can go only so long before cramping up. As far as I can tell, “TS” is also handy because there is some unwritten teen law that one cannot go more than 90 seconds without getting in touch with every friend you have. Selfies fly back and forth over the Internet at an incredible rate. Apparently, what you are doing at this very moment is crucial, not that “old news” picture you sent over two minutes ago!

My sources tell me that this electronic messaging goes on into the late hours of the evening until some universal force overtakes them and they fall asleep. That explains why, immediately upon awakening, nay, even before that urgent morning call to nature, the air waves are abuzz with news and pictures about what might have happened in their world since they were all out of touch for those agonizing 7-8 hours, albeit none of them were knowing or perceiving in the least during that time.

Of course, at some point during the day, the inevitable contact with the accursed adult population occurs and “AS” must be endured. The conversations are crisp and to the point to be sure. Let me give you an example:

Me: “Good morning, girls, did you sleep well?”

Them: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you going over to the beach today?

Them: “Maybe.”

Me: “You do realize it’s going to be extremely hot and sunny, right?Ā 

Them: “Kinda.”

Me: “Would you rather stay inside with us?

Them: “No.”

Me: “Are your beach towels from yesterday dried out yet?”

Them: “Sorta.”

Me: “Alright then, have a great time and let me know if you need anything.”

Them: “OK.”

Did you notice how they used their entire “AS” vocabulary? Never let it be said that they are not chatty in their own right. As an aside, I might mention that they texted or tweeted several long messages to their friends back home during this entire interaction. The moral to this is, if you want any in-depth information, don’t use questions that can be answered in one word!

To my surprise, as they walked out the door they turned and said, “See you later.” I sensed they were preparing to transition back to “TS” and it just slipped out. In a state of shock, all I could say was “OK.” It was then that I realized how much easier “AS” actually is.

They’ve started back home now, so the house is feeling kinda empty and I sorta miss them. I think I’ll skype my granddaughter and see what I’ve missed in the five minutes since they left.

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About Al

Retired from a couple of professions, trying my hand at writing about the events in our lives.
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26 Responses to Bilingual teenagers….

  1. Hello Al. I am giggling again at your observations! Great to know the correct terminology for these two types of speech šŸ˜‰
    I am 35, and still remember very clearly trying to speak as little as possible to my parents (and other adults) when answering their questions! There were no mobile phones in those days, so I’m wondering what else I was doing whilst answering questions with one syllable words – probably slowly edging towards the door to get away from the AS!
    Hope you’re well, and had a nice skype with your grand daughter šŸ™‚
    Carly

  2. My grandchildren are both under three so the trials f inter-generational conversation are still something for the future but I feel suitably warned. Thank you šŸ™‚

    • Al says:

      Each stage has it’s own rewards so don’t be too anxious. Once they’re away from their friends they convert back to their heart melting ways.

  3. Tricia says:

    Great observations Al! I think the moment when TS turns in to complete vocal silence with just the faint sound of fingers tapping a keyboard is not far off

    • Al says:

      Yes, Tricia. I think if I hadn’t initiated any conversations, even just saying good morning, there would have been complete silence throughout the visit. I’m speaking for myself. My wife seems to elicit dialogue from them….must be a female thing.

  4. My grandkids are only 6 and 3…..I guess I will have to wait for them to hit this phase. I kind of like them now when they talk unceasingly.

    • Al says:

      Absolutely! Her sister is 18 now and I fondly remember the days when they both couldn’t wait to visit Nonny and Poppy and tell us all about what they’ve been doing and want to do special things with us. Enjoy it!

  5. Margy says:

    I have a 14 year old granddaughter too! Your observations are superbly accurate. My own children had one more word in their AS vocabulary – it was ‘sure’. It meant “I’m agreeing with you because that is what you want to hear, but I will be doing the opposite as soon as I am out of range…”

  6. pegoleg says:

    Thanks for this investigative report into what the kids are doing nowadays. You’re a cultural anthropologist of blogging!

  7. I have a teenage daughter. It is a brave new world…..

  8. Lynn says:

    So funny Al! The good news is, they haven’t totally forgotten adultspeak!

  9. Perfect Al!
    You are an astute observer/translator of the TS world.
    Very well written šŸ˜Š

  10. dorannrule says:

    That is hilarious and oh so true! I am so happy someone confirmed why I cannot understand my grandgirls. It’s not only the one word answers but when they do use sentences it’s so fast I always have to ask them to repeat. Thought it was just me losing hearing but now I understand. Thank you!

    • Al says:

      You know, Dorann, I wish somebody would invent a hearing aid that turns speech into different speeds. Of course, the setting for teen girls would have to be “super slo-mo!”

  11. I giggled whilst reading this..is that OK? ā¤

  12. Bernice says:

    Good blog , Al. Love your laser-like observations of the current culture.

    • Al says:

      Thanks, Bernice. There’s nothing like being on the front lines with them to ferret out what it means to be a 14-year old.

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