Multilingual Texting

Category: Language, Marketing Translation

How does a lover of French cinema invite a friend to the movies using just 11 characters? The savvy texter would type: “6né 2m1? A tt!”, which represents: Ciné demain? À toute à l’heure! (“Movie tomorrow? See you soon!”).

Around the world, users of text messaging (a.k.a. SMS or Short Message Service) have developed a wonderfully witty linguistic subculture that is arguably changing the way we use written language.

In any language, getting your point across in a restricted number of characters, as required by text messages, necessitates creativity. (Just think about how Twitter’s 140-character limit has forced us to say a lot with so little.)

Roman language texters commonly take advantage of the language-specific pronunciations of individual letters and numbers, morphing them into words or approximations of words, such as “c u 2nite” (“see you tonight”) and “l8r” (“later”).

Italian friends looking for each other in a crowded plaza might type “dv6” for dove sei? (“Where are you?”). Or, star-crossed lovers on opposite ends of Verona would write “mmt+” for mi manchi tantissimo (“I miss you so much!”).