CHENNAI: Do you want to sound natural when you are engaged in an informal conversation or chat? If you use formal language while chatting, you sound unnatural as formal language and expressions are inappropriate in informal situations and distances the persons in the conversation. A chat, by definition, is an informal conversation. A chat uses friendly and informal expressions. Informal language is used in texting and on social networking sites.
Here is an example of the use of formal language I came across in a Facebook chat:
A: Did you have your dinner?
B: Yes, I did. What about you?
A: I had my dinner about an hour ago.
B: Do you have your dinner usually at 8 pm?
A: Yes, all the members of my family have dinner around 8 pm. And therefore, I too have dinner around 8 o’clock.
Does the above chat sound natural? No. The sentence structure used is inappropriate for a chat. Compare it with this.
A: Had your dinner?
B: Yeah, and you?
A: An hour ago.
B: So early? Is it your usual time?
A: Yeah. Everybody at home has dinner around 8. So I do too.
This chat is informal and sounds natural as it uses simple, common and informal words, and a simple sentence structure.
Here are informal expressions that we can use to ask how someone is:
■ How’s it going? ■ How ya doing?
■ How’s life? ■ What’s up?
■ What’s new?
Here are informal expressions we can use to say how we are:
■ Great. ■ Pretty good. ■ Same as always. ■ Not bad. ■ No so great.
As an active user of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, I come across many abbreviations such as FYI (for your Information), LOL (laugh out loud), BBN (bye bye now), CYAL8R (see you later), JTLYK (just to let you know) and BWL (bursting with laughter) in messages. Recently at an English Language Teaching (ELT) conference, a teacher vehemently expressed her views against the chat language used by students. Her argument was that students who use chat language tend to produce ungrammatical sentences. When she asked for my opinion I said, “Let the users of social media use the language they are comfortable with. It is the language of Gen Y and Gen Z. If required, let us also learn the chat language to connect with them. Students do not know what it is like to be without an Internet connection or a cell phone.”
BTW the term Gen X refers to those born in the 60s and 70s, Gen Y to those born during the 80s and 90s and Gen Z to those born in the 21st century. FYI I feel younger when I chat with a Gen Y or Gen Z person and I feel much younger when I use chat language. BBN.