This English activity looks at text speak and how sets students the task of cracking coded messages. It is aimed at 7-12 year-olds but could be used with older students with appropriate teacher differentiation. An introduction is provided below.

Quick guide to SMS texts

Short Messaging Service (SMS) language or textese describes the abbreviations and slang most commonly used due to the necessary brevity of mobile phone text messaging, though its use is common on the Internet, including e-mail and Instant Messaging. It can be likened to a rebus, which uses pictures and single letters, or numbers to represent whole words (e.g. “i <3 u” which uses the pictogram of a heart for “love”, and the letter “u” replaces “you”). For words which have no common abbreviation, textese users most commonly remove the vowels from a word, and the reader is forced to interpret a string of consonants by re-adding the vowels (e.g. “dictionary” becomes “dctnry”, or “keyboard” becomes “kybrd”). The objective of textese is to use the fewest number of characters needed to convey a message.

be = b
see = c
are = r
you = u
why = y
birthday = bday
OK = k

ate = 8
for = 4
to/too = 2
one/won = 1

ate = 8, so:
great = gr8
mate = m8
wait = w8
later = l8r or l8a
skate = sk8
skater = sk8r
tomorrow = 2mro
for / fore = 4, so:
before = b4
therefore = thr4
once = 1ce

Using combinations of the above can shorten single or multiple words e.g. your and you’re both become yr.

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