Is There a Language Gap Between Generations?

You’ve heard the jokes – adults to teenagers, “We don’t even speak the same language.” But as it relates to modern informal language, or slang, that statement is more true than funny. There seems to be a growing generational gap. But what makes today’s language gap unique to past divides?

During the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S6 cell phone, they commissioned a study on the language gap between older and younger generations. The study showed a disconnect of “seismic” proportions.

86% of parents in the survey felt that teens spoke a completely different language on social media sites. But doesn’t every generation have monopoly on its own terms and phrases? It begs the question, does this “seismic” gap exist because different age groups use different vernacular? Or is it more the medium than the message?

Technology as its own Language
Since the inception of the internet, the way we communicate has evolved – face-to-face has been superseded by screen-to-screen. New generations are inundated with technology from the day they’re born, and they become comfortable with digital conversation, whether that means exchanging slang via text, or picture-based communication (emojis, memes, videos) through other messaging apps.

Older generations are less inclined to text, post, scroll, or share. Naturally, verbal communication is more valuable to them. It’s what they were raised on. Digital communication lacks all the comfortable subtleties of face-to-face conversation – non-verbal cues, body language, eye contact. Even letter-writing is not a direct parallel to “text talk” due to one major difference: it’s not instantaneous.

The problem isn’t that older generations don’t understand the frowning emoji, or that they can’t learn a new slang term, but that they often don’t see the same value. While there is still debate as to whether or not it becomes harder to learn new things as we age, we know that if we’re not motivated, it’s definitely more difficult.

Connection and Communication
Humans need interaction. Interpersonal communication is directly linked with our quality of life. However, the more pronounced the language gap between generations, the more separated those distinctive groups become, each choosing to find human connection within their preferred form of communication – face-to-face, or screen-to-screen.

So where is the danger? Are we doomed to experience a generational gap that fissures and spreads from language to politics? Or is it just a dinner table issue? Thankfully, the evolution of language is a slow process, so while we are sure to disagree and sometimes misinterpret each other, it’s not all greek to either party.

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