The Effect of Bilingualism on
Text Messaging Efficiency
Sandra Yvette Benitez
California State University,
Dominguez Hills
Code Switching

Code switch: The alternation of two or
more language dialects.

Example:
“I don’t want to go si tu no puedes ir”
 “I don’t want to go if you can’t go”

Text Messages
Short Message Service (SMS),
asynchronous communication
 Individuals are limited to 160 characters
per message.
 Textisms

 Language
Abbreviations
 Emoticons
 Capitalization
 Punctuation
Background
Previous research has named common
factors that affect an individual’s
reasoning for code switching.
Background Cont.
These Include:




Environmental settings
Your audience
Conversations with embarrassing or
uncomfortable topics
Picking up “cues” from others that serve as
an invitation to speak both languages
Background Cont.

Deficiency-Driven Code switching

Proficiency-Driven Code switching

Limited research available relating
code switching to communication
efficiency.
Background Cont.

Bautista (2004)
 “Communicative Efficiency”
 Friend’s

Text: “Don’t get kidnapped.”
(Tagalog alternative is: Huwag kang magpapakidnap.)
 Bautista’s

Response: “Walang magra-ransom.”
(The alternative in English is: No one will pay ransom [for
me] )
Purpose
This study is testing Bautista’s hypothesis
in an experiment comparing a bilingual
group of English and Spanish speakers
and a monolingual group of English only
speakers.
Participants
N= 38 pairs
 Monolingual = 22 pairs
 Bilingual =16 pairs
 Participants were undergraduate students
recruited from the psychology subject
pool at California State University,
Dominguez Hills.

Texting Game

Participants were asked to play a “Password”
like game in which the objective was to make
their partner guess as many words off of a
word list by providing them with descriptions of
the word.

Participants were asked to complete this task
communicating only via the text messaging
service on their cell phones.
Example of Word Lists
English
 Category: Having Sex
 Masturbation
 Oral Sex
 Condom
 Vagina
 Breast
 Penis
 Orgasm
 Testicles
 Sperm
 Erection
Spanish
 Category: Having Sex
 Masturbacion
 Oral Sex
 Condon
 Vagina
 Pecho
 Penis
 Orgasmo
 Testicles
 Esperma
 Erection
Texting Game

IV


Language type: Monolingual vs. Bilingual
group.
DV
The number of words guessed correctly
 Character count per message in order to
determine which group was most efficient
 The message count per target word per
game

Hypotheses

H1: Bilinguals will guess more words correctly than
the monolinguals because they will be able to text
more efficiently due to the availability of two
languages.

H2: Bilinguals will use fewer characters within their
text messages because they will be able to choose
the shortest words from both languages.

H3: Bilinguals will send fewer messages and guess
more words correctly than the monolingual pairs
because they will be able to text more efficiently and
choose the shortest words due to the availability of
two languages.
Method

Requirements:
Sign up in pairs according to language
capabilities
 Bring and use their own cell phones
 Text Messaging experience of more than a
year.


Procedure:

Each pair was distributed the texting game packet
Method Cont.

Participants were then separated into two different
rooms.

Official word lists were distributed. When the 10 min
time limit expired, the pairs rotated.

Text messages were collected.
Examples of Code Switches

“Buen trabajo mija…next..”.
 “Good

job girl..next..”
“Te sale de atras n don’t smell so good”
 “It
comes out through the back and dont
smell so good”

La mama le da leche al bebe con el q?
 “The
mother gives milk to the baby with
what?”
Code Switches
6
5
4
# Of Bilingual 3
Pairs
2
1
0
0
2
3
4
5
# Of Switches Per Pair
6
8
Hypothesis #1:
Number Of Words Correct By
Language Group
6
5
Mean # of
Words
Guessed
Correctly
4
3
M=4.7
[SD=2.06]
2
M=3.7
[SD=1.86]
1
0
Monolingual
Bilingual
Language Condition
Monolingual vs. Bilingual
t(33)= 1.48, p=0.15
Hypothesis #2:
Characters Per Message By
Language Group
30
Mean # of
Characters
Per Message
Sent
25
M=27.3
M=27.7
[SD=6.87]
[SD=8.92]
Monolingual
Bilingual
20
15
Language Condition
Monolingual vs Bilingual
t(33)= -.129, p=.898
Hypothesis #3:
Messages Per
Target Word By Language Group
5
Mean # of
4
Messages Sent to
achieve target
3
word
M=4.4
M=3.8
[SD=3.2]
[SD=2.7]
2
1
Monolingual
Bilingual
Language Condition
Monolinguals vs. Bilinguals
t(33)=-0.56, p=0.58
Correlations with Switch Count
Words guessed
correctly
Character Count Per
Message
Message Count Per
Target Word
r
Kendall’s
Tau
Switch Count
Switch Count
-0.34†
-0.31†
p=.098
p=.062
0.24
.081
p=.183
p=.34
-0.40
-.30
p=.218
P=.210
( all are 1 tailed tests)
† p<.10
Results

There was no statistical significance when
comparing the bilingual vs. monolingual
groups in each of the dependent variables.
Discussion

Bilinguals did not show greater efficiency
over the Monolingual pairs.

Did not support Bautista’s hypothesis

Bilingual’s are code switching, however, it has
not been directly related to communication
efficiency.
Discussion Cont.

First experimental study conducted to try
and test this hypothesis.

Bilinguals were shortening both English &
Spanish words.
Future Studies

Analyzing the underlying mental structures
of bilinguals by studying natural occurring
text messages.

Elimination of experimental setting that can
help capture the code switches in their natural
settings.
Broader Implications

Texting as a way of communicating with
outpatient clients after treatment.
 Our
study helped to show that this will be less
effective due to the limitations of text messaging.
Thank you
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The Effect of Bilingualism on Text Messaging Efficiency