Teaching slang and IdiomsThe question has been pondered as to whether foreign students should be taught english
slang and idioms. Firstly my definition of an idiom is a phrase or group of words that do not literally carry the meaning of those words, for instance ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ has nothing to do with either a cat or a bag. A slang word is similar to an idiom in that it also does not literally mean what it says, i.e. ‘that girl is hot’, has nothing to do with her temperature. Idioms generally consist of a few words, whereas slang is usually a single word.
In my opinion I believe that it is an essential and everyday part of the english
language and therefore should be taught to some degree. In some towns and cities slang is used more generally than formal english
, so why should this not be taught as part of a curriculum? I guess some people look at slang as a negative part of the language and therefore feel it has no part being taught in the classroom, but I argue this is a part of everyday language and if you listen to any TV show, news item or drama on the TV, you are sure to hear these idioms and slang being used throughout. Idioms are used to make language more colourful and they bring life to conversations, slang may be used for the same reasons or even as a type of code. There are many different types of slang and idioms for different types of situations and people, rappers, musicians, artists and teenagers all use their own slang when talking amongst themselves, business and media use another type of slang and idioms when talking in meetings or business. Languages also evolve and it is quite common to find slang and idioms being adopted into the formal language structure.
It is therefore very important to try to teach the correct type of slang or idiom to fit in with students’ needs. Students may successfully complete an english
course with flying colours, but still be at a loss with business colleagues or acquaintances if they cannot understand the language they are using.
It is important not to try to teach too many of these as they can change so often and sometimes they are not used so often, but as there are so many of these I think they need to be taught to some degree. Teaching idioms and slang can be great fun for students, there are many games that can be adapted for teaching purposes such as charades and many role playing scenarios. Song and movies are another fun way for students to learn slang and idioms, students can really enjoy learning these alongside their formal and informal english
lessons. I believe an important guideline to remember, is that when teaching idioms or slang is that it has to be pointed out that it should be used in the right context and with the right audience. The actual listening, understanding and knowing when it is appropriate to use such language and with whom, is as important if not more important than the actual speaking and pronunciation. It is better to teach these words and phrases in the classroom than inevitably have students pick them up elsewhere, which could then lead to confusion and embarrassment.
Slang and idioms should be taught alongside formal and informal english
and not as a replacement for either. If students are to fully understand and use english
to the best of their ability, I think this should be a part of the learning process.