TEFL Paper DialectHow is a culture defined? What defines cultural differences and country borders? One of the most important aspects of culture is language. One must learn the language of another people to truly be immersed and understand their culture. Within one language however, different cultures can exist and are manifested through regional slang or regional dialects. As an American, I feel most comfortable discussing regional dialects from my country, but by not mentioning British, australian, and other Anglophone countries I am not ignoring the cultural depth of these dialects, but am merely discussing what I know best.
Dialect is defined as "a regional variety of a language" (Dictionary.com) and "a provincial, rural, or socially distinct variety of a language that differs from the standard language, especially when considered substandard" (Dictionary.com). Slang, on the other hand, is defined as "very informal usa
ge in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language" (Dictionary.com). As an enthusiast for languages, I find both of these phenomenons particularly fascinating, in large part because of the cultural and social implications and indicators of a dialect. Slang and dialect are related, however. Dialect includes slang words and phrases and in this article I am going to focus primarily on slang relating to regions. At what point does a student of english as a Foreign Language need to know slang words and a particular dialect? I would say there are a few situations that call for specific teachings of "non-standard english".
First of all, if students are studying in an english host country, like the united states
of America, I would find it pertinent to discuss the American word for pants (trousers) and words like "drive-thru" or "all you can eat buffets" which are places more or less unique to American culture. Knowing that pants in America is distinct from pants in Britain is important. Also knowing words that Americans associate with various things helps ease a foreigner into American culture by understanding basic communication skills. In cases of teaching students in their country, it would be important to point out regional dialects and compare them between the countries. Between American and British english some phrases and words are vastly different, and it would be important to distinguish between the two dialects. Some students watch American films and television, they thus learn slang on their own, and often can recite phrases learned from Hollywood films. WHile some of these phrases are correct, it will be important to point out that some might not be acceptable speech depending on the context. Saying "may the force be with you" is probably not appropriate for any professional setting, as an example. I think its important for teachers teaching foreign students in America to allow students to use American specific phrases, and even go into internet lingo. The word "lol" is used frequently on the internet, and students should know that it means "laughing out loud." There are other words used as slang in America like "ridiculous" and "awesome" which, when defined literally, carry different meanings. Although its easy to get into dialect and explaining the cultural roots of which, it is also important to stick to standard english. For instance, part of a dialect is the usage of particular slang. Usage of slang is acceptable, but needs to be stressed that certain slang terms are considered inappropriate in various situations and people should be wary of using too colloquial of language.
Language, the way we communicate with each other and how we express our thoughts and beliefs, is a window into each of our own cultures. Making reference to the various differences found in the english language, based on dialect, explains the vast diversity of the Anglophone world. Allowing students to pursue the cultural background of slang terms and dialect differences might satiate some of their interest in the english speaking world. I believe that discussing and teaching slang, but also particular jargon and differences found in various dialects is important for an english teacher. If one only knows standard english and no phrases to use when speaking to native english speakers, whats the point in learning english in the first place?