“An obscure organization that standardizes the way punctuation marks and other text are represented by computer systems has in recent years found itself at the forefront of mobile pop culture, with its power to create new emojis. A new batch is under review, a process that takes months. But don’t call the pictorial system a language, unless you want an argument from Mark Davis, 63, a co-founder and the president of the Unicode Consortium, the group that serves as the midwife to new emojis.” J. Bromwich, New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: How Emojis Find Their Way to Phones By Jonah Bromwich, The New York Times
“Mr. Davis said there was no broadly shared way to interpret the symbols, despite their widespread use on phones and other devices. I can tell you, using language, I need to go get a haircut, but only if I can get there by 3 p.m., and otherwise I have to pick up the kids. You try to express that in emoji and you get a series of symbols that people could interpret in a thousand different ways. In an interview last week, Mr. Davis discussed the latest group of 67 images, set for a vote at the consortium’s meeting next spring.
The Unicode Consortium is sometimes labeled “mysterious” (as in a recent post from New York magazine) but Mr. Davis said there was nothing shadowy about it. Its work is largely transparent, and information about its history, members and processes are included on its website...The group meets quarterly; at a meeting in May, they will vote on whether to formally induct the 67 new emojis.
Unicode was started in the late 1980s to develop a standardized code for text characters. It used to be that different computers could not easily talk to one another because they used different codes for the same letters.
To solve that problem, Unicode takes every letter, number, symbol and punctuation mark that it deems worthy and assigns each — including emojis — a specific number that a computer will recognize.
And, whatever Mr. Davis thinks, some experts are not quite as sure that emojis do not represent the beginnings of a new language.
Take Colin Rothfels, who works for a keyboard company. His job title? Emoji grammarian. Mr. Davis concedes that emojis could one day evolve into something more.
It’s not a language, but conceivably, it could develop into one, like Chinese did, he said. Pictures can acquire a particular meaning in a particular culture…Before the 67 new emojis can be the building blocks of language or personal style though, they will have to be made official.
Mr. Davis said that all but one of the last group of emojis to be subjected to a vote were inducted into the official hieroglyphic system…Some people are bothered by the inclusion of the rifle as a candidate,” Mr. Davis said. But the reason that’s included is because shooting is an Olympic sport…I’ll tell you what I think I’m going to use the most often once it’s available, he said. The rolling eyes emoji.”
Here’s a sample emoji from the Consortium. If Apple or Google ever included this emoji in iOS or Android, it would look different.
You Tube: Liz Lemon’s masterpiece eye roll. Courtesy Logan Warren
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use the UIE brainstorming chart (sample) for brainstorming the meanings.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Mr. Davis said there was no way to interpret the symbols.
- The symbols are used on phones and other devices.
- You try to express that in emoji.
- They’re set for a vote at the consortium’s meeting next spring.
- The pictures include a groom in a tuxedo.
- There’s a drooling face, a clown, and a shark.
- Unicode was started in the late 1980s to develop a standardized code for text characters.
- Some of these modern hieroglyphics have prompted debate.
- Some think that emojis do not represent a new language.
- It’s not a language, but conceivably, it could develop into one.
Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space.
1. I can ___you, using language, I need to go get a haircut, but only if I can get there by 3 p.m., and otherwise I have to pick up the kids,” he said.
2. You try to express that in emoji and you get a series of ___that people could interpret in a thousand different ways.
3. In an interview last week, Mr. Davis___ the latest group of 67 images, set for a vote at the consortium’s meeting next spring.
4. The Unicode Consortium is sometimes labeled___.
5. In deciding which emojis to add, the Unicode Consortium considers factors ___compatibility.
6. The group of ___new emojis includes a large number of sports icons. That was to accommodate people texting during the next Olympics.
Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
Finding the Main Idea
Directions: Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with discussing or writing about the main idea and points from the article.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1.The following two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“Some of these modern hieroglyphics have prompted debate. Sets of default emojis that included only white skin tones prompted Unicode to release more diverse characters last year. And one image in the latest group has prompted protest: The British gun control group Infer Trust has spoken out against a proposal for a rifle emoji.”
“In deciding which emojis to add, the Unicode Consortium considers factors including compatibility… and frequency of use (whether people will be interested in using a certain picture often enough to justify its existence). Another factor is completeness. For instance, at one point, the group added a mosque, a synagogue and a generic place of worship to complement the Christian church symbol that was already included.”
2. Do you use emojis? If so how often do you use them?
3. In your opinion are emojis useful? Explain why or why not.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.