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3 Points of Teaching Slang and Idioms

3 Points of Teaching Slang and Idioms | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Slang and idioms are an important part of every language and should be taught to ESL students. Colloquialisms are used in daily conversational English, and teaching them to students increases the efficiency of communication and fluency. They also are used in cultural items as well, such as movies, books, and music. Teaching slang and idioms may also prevent misunderstandings between people.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Vania J. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

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1. Better Communication

While slang and idioms may seem inappropriate to teach students, it makes for better communication. Native English speakers use slang and idioms such as "break a leg" or "don't beat around the bush" in everyday conversations. A non-native English speaker who hasn't been taught idioms would be confused at what those mean and may not be able to follow along with the conversation at hand. Some teaching courses offer programs where the English learner may write or email a native English speaker to gain fluency. While the learner may not ever use the idioms or slang themselves, just knowing what the native English speaker means makes for more interesting conversations. These interesting conversations can foster more interest in learning English.

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2. Cultural Peculiarities

English-speaking culture uses slang and idioms constantly. English learners may not get large parts of movies, music, literature, or art without understanding slang or idioms. This makes watching or listening to these both boring and alienating. By teaching slang and idioms, the students gain a greater understanding and interest in cross-cultural items, increasing their interest in learning English. When using authentic materials, such as movie clips or songs, students may get stuck on the fact that they don't understand the slang or idioms used within, instead of gaining confidence that they can comprehend the gist of the material.


3. Better Understanding

Slang and idioms may lead to misunderstandings, which is why it is necessary to teach them. Non-native English speakers may feel insulted by slang or idioms they do not understand. For example, if a native English speaker tells a non-native English speaker to "break a leg." If the non-native English speaker doesn't know the meaning of the idiom, it sounds as if the native English speaker is telling them that they hope they get injured. Something being "sick" is a compliment in English, but a non-native English speaker may simply be confused. Also, if the student knows when slang and idioms may be used, they are less likely to use them in inappropriate situations. The non-native English speaker who has picked up slang, but doesn't know when it is appropriate to use, may attempt to use slang in professional situations. This may make them look uneducated or offend someone.

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Teaching slang and idioms is an important part of teaching English. It increases the student's ability to fluently communicate. Also, it may help enhance a student's interest in learning English by allowing them to understand cultural material such as songs and movies better. It also prevents misunderstandings and unprofessionalism between native and non-native English speakers. While slang and idioms may seem unprofessional to teach in the classroom, they are a vital part of the English language that should be taught.

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