The “death of English” sounds a little melodramatic, but the emotion is overwhelmingly justified. In the wake of emoticons, word abbreviations and social media, conventional English has lived out its glory days and has been replaced with eggplant emojis, totes (meaning totally) and 280 characters.
Why is this so? The truth is that a language, no matter how widely spoken, dies soon after the dominant culture that speaks it, evolves. That generation is known as the “Tik Tok” aka Generation Z and millennials.
From out of nowhere, they descended upon us with their unusual lingo, senseless entitlement and ‘tree-hugging’. What's happened is that we as copywriters had to adjust – learn an entirely new way of writing, seemingly, overnight. The market today is so powerful that, as marketers and ad people, we are tripping over ourselves to appease this fickle audience.
What happens when people stop writing? Or when books become less central to society? What happens when our writers and thinkers express themselves through Facebook and Twitter instead of on the page?...
In South Africa, English is the most spoken language in the country – which is strange considering that people of colour make up 90% of the population – and, with that, they bring their beautiful native languages.
So, what’s stopping us from incorporating vernac in our ads? Why aren’t we talking to these people – especially in their own language?
We’re meant to speak many tongues, our evolutionary journey is proof of that – we’ve come a long way from grunting and screaming. So, copywriters must evolve (be ‘woke’) if they want to stay relevant – but agencies must create opportunities for the writers to flourish.
Communicating in more than one language is highly beneficial to your progression as a writer, or you run the risk of becoming obsolete. Or worse, “killed”.
Manqoba Zondi (aka Que) is a Senior Copywriter at Jupiter Drawing Room. Previously, Que worked as a Mid-weight writer for Ninety9cents communication. Que is an avid collector of bow-ties - if he's not "feeling" his way through fabrics for his next piece. He can be found looking for his next source of creative inspiration on festivals dancefloors or on stage at storytelling events.
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