Humans have always been social creatures. We like to feel connected, part of a community, and close to our family and friends. That’s why social platforms have become such an integral part of our lives. Sharing pictures, videos, and communicating instantly, has become very much part of our daily rituals. Around 56% of the world’s population is now socially connected. They spend upwards of two hours and 27 minutes a day on their favourite social platforms. That’s incredible when you consider that MySpace – the first popular social network – launched under 20 years ago.
But how have social platforms changed the way we communicate? You might not think it has – but there are plenty of signs that the way we communicate, and the language we use, in our personal and professional lives has evolved.
Think about your work emails. They’re much shorter, less formal, and to the point, than they were even five years ago. You probably use “I,” or “It is” a lot less. Instead of “It sounds great!”, or “I will see you this afternoon,” you’re more likely to use “Sounds great!” “Speak soon.” The brevity in the way we communicate socially is often reflected in the way we communicate professionally.
Being exposed to different cultures, and the global nature of social networks, mean that we’re also embracing words and phrases from other languages and cultures. “Staycation” and “bake-off” are two just two American words that the British have borrowed. It’s also now quite normal to hear British people say “can I get?” Again, an American phrase that is now used daily across the English language when ordering a coffee. And not to forget “Awesome!” Twenty years ago you would rarely hear a British speaker mouth the word. Now it’s widely accepted.
But what about different languages? Has German, French, Russian, Cantonese also evolved thanks to social – and how? We wanted to find out. We recently conducted a poll of our 1,600 linguists across the world to understand how their own language has changed as a result of social communication and pop-culture. As one translator explains, “cuz,” – the shortened version of “because” – has made its way into the Cantonese language. It’s now often used alongside traditional Cantonese symbols. Another translator explains how “LOL” is now commonly used by Italians.
These are just a couple of examples that illustrate how different languages are not just borrowing English terms, but adopting the shortened versions often used in social communication. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be sharing insights from our translators. Everything from their favourite word, to why they love language and the words they think will no longer exist in 25 years. Follow #WeLoveLanguage, join the discussions! And don't forget to visit our dedicated resources page where we'll be sharing insights and videos from our translators.