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Tongue tied: Is Facebook hurting Thai language?

- Associated Press - Friday, July 23, 2010

BANGKOK (AP) - Facebook and Twitter are causing deteriorating language skills among Thai students and authorities want them to return to the bygone tradition of letter-writing, the Culture Ministry said Friday.

A national survey conducted by the ministry found that four out of 10 Thai youths think "proper Thai" should only be used on formal occasions. Roughly a third of Thai youths are not concerned about misspellings, abbreviations and grammatical mistakes that are common in text messaging and social media conversations.

"Excessive use of Facebook, Twitter and mobile phone messages distorts the language. But we can't stop people from communicating," Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombut told The Associated Press on Friday, a day after releasing results of the survey.

Every generation has its own slang but the use of "official Thai" must be nurtured, he added.

"We must preserve our national language. If nobody sees its importance, then we're doomed," Nipit was quoted as saying in Thursday's Thai Post newspaper. "Nowadays kids do not write letters anymore. They forget the correct way to write."

One common online shortcut: When Thai youths want to type ha-ha to indicate laughter online _ the equivalent of LOL _ they use the number "5" because the word for five in Thai is "ha."

The Culture Ministry intends to roll out letter and essay writing competitions to promote better writing, he said.

Earlier this week, the ministry sent written requests to all television stations asking program hosts, news anchors and celebrities to use proper Thai on-air, he said.

The survey polled 6,500 youths over age 13 nationwide. It did not include a margin of error.

The minister's comments came ahead of Thailand's national language day, which will be celebrated July 29.

"Sometimes I don't understand what Thai kids are saying in their mother tongue," Nipit said. "But our duty as government is to conserve the good parts of the Thai language."

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