It is official… the rise of the next global language is upon us. And no, it isn’t spoken – and it doesn’t actually consist of any letters, but somehow, this has become its beauty – that it transcends words.
Welcome to the world of emojis.
If Chinese (as a macro-language) is the most spoken language in the world, emoji is surely the second. Professor Vyv Evans of Bangor University noted that, “Emoji is the fastest growing form of language in history based on its incredible adoption rate and speed of evolution.” It is estimated that six billion emojis are sent every day.
We’ve all done it… either you’re too busy to send a proper reply, or quite simply, no words can express what you mean better than this sassy lady or my personal favourite, the heart eye face. There is even research to back this up – TalkTalk, a UK telecom company, and Bangor University found that 72% of British 18-25 year olds find it easier to express their feelings with emoji, rather than actual words.
However, with the rise in expressing our feeling through little yellow people and inanimate objects, what does this mean for the English language? Is the rise of emojis a good thing?
Many think yes. For the first time in history, we have a new language that due to its sheer diversity makes it a viable tool for crossing language and cultural barriers and divides. We can connect with, and actually communicate our feelings, emotions, wants, needs, fears to those who don’t use our mother tongue, and all with almost no effort .
John McWhorter, an American linguist professor at Columbia University, commented that emoji’s can make our thoughts more complete – “They add on a part of language that often gets lost in writing, the expressive and personal part.”
However, on the flip side, there are clearly limits on what you can say with pictures, compared to the flexibility of words. Dr Pauline Bryant, a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University’s linguistics program, highlighted the lack of grammar and verbs, noting, “They know what you’re thinking about because you’ve got pictures of loaves of bread and houses and blue whales and things. But what do I want you to do about it because I haven’t got a verb that says buy or eat or whatever?”
Whatever side of the fence you sit on – love them or hate them – it is clear emojis aren’t going anywhere. In 2013, the word emoji was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. In December 2014, the first all-emoji art exhibition was held in New York City. Earlier this year, Emoji Dick, a Kickstarter-backed translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was accepted into the Library of Congress.
Brands, celebrities and politicians are all using emojis as a new way to communicate to their audiences. Journalists are conducting talent interviews in emojis. Academics are analysing entire countries and cultures based on their emoji use – did you know Aussies use alcohol and junk food emojis twice as much as the rest of the world?!
Advertising mastermind David Ogilvy once said, “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.” This quote still rings true today, although I doubt David Ogilvy knew back then that 50 years on that that language would be pictures of smiley poos and dancing ladies .
Written by Jess Smart – Account Director, Howorth Communications