html 4.0 transitional//en"> Mallspeak is a disease

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Mallspeak is a disease

The "likes," "you knows," "whatevers," and "I means" that dominate the speech of today's average high school and college kids is "too much!!"

The inability of today's students to complete a spoken sentence, without a few "you knows" and "like, man," is more than a language problem. It is a language disease that could destroy the English language as we know it today. Good, well-spoken English is slowly disappearing.

A former colleague in San Francisco, whose daughter is at Smith College, told me the president of Smith College, Ruth Simmons, calls this language disease "mallspeak." The malls where the kids hang out gives mallspeak its name. Dr. Simmons is at the vanguard of a growing movement to stamp out mallspeak and insists on the importance of teaching students to speak properly.

Mallspeak is derived from the ever-present malls that are themselves a plague to towns and cities across America. There was a time when young people went to the lake or a city park for the fun of it. For over a generation now the young slouch around the halls of the malls. There in the malls they practice their mallspeak. As if they needed practice. Bad language is like anything bad -- it comes too easy.

A number of universities are incorporating more speaking requirements and oral examinations into their courses. This is a way discover the most contagious students with mallspeak, but does not answer how to treat it. There was a time when such disgusting talk came only from athletes interviewed on TV sports shows.

Sad to say but many of my students in Hong Kong spoke better English than some of my students at Baylor University. On American campuses foreign students, who might come to America with pretty good, even correct English, were quickly infected by mallspeak germs.

Of all the suggestions for up-grading mallspeak to proper speech President Simmon has the most attention-grabbing method of therapy. She says, "There are some students, I just grab by the shoulders and say, `Do not say `like' one more time.' "

About all that will bring in most schools today would be a law suit by the student's parents. (August 27, 1999)


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