How Teaching Slang and Idioms Can Help Students Understand the Context and Connotations Surrounding the English Language
Throughout this course, it was mentioned that language does not happen in isolation. It is a product of the various aspects of culture, values, and context that make up the environment in which the language is used. Language can be used in vastly diverse and varied manners, and within different contexts have unique meanings. In the same way, slang and idioms are created based on specific contexts that exist within a society or group within a culture.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Temi O. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Proverbs, idioms, and slang can often speak volumes about the culture that one is encountering. Growing up with a Nigerian father, I was often presented with proverbs that spoke about different cultural customs, values, and lessons that are core messages within Nigerian and Yoruba society. This was a way that my father was able to impart his very distinct culture to his children, despite us growing up in the very different culture found within Canada.
In the same way, it can be useful for EFL instructors to utilize teaching slang and idioms from their home country or other English speaking areas to help share some of the cultural customs and norms with their students. This is important because EFL classrooms can often be found outside of English-speaking countries and exposure to authentic materials to be used may often include idioms because they can more succinctly describe a situation. It also supports teachers in providing realistic expectations for students on what they will hear in a native-English speaking environment. So by teaching students about idioms and slang EFL teachers can support students in more clearly and easily expressing ideas, as well as allowing them to be more proficient when it comes to understanding and interacting with native speakers. Even if students do not memorize all the idioms used by native English speakers, it is useful for them to be able to think beyond the face-value meaning of expressions when they do not seem to make sense in the context used.
Also Read: Phonetics and Phonology in the ESL Classroom
Creativity and Fun
Additionally, idioms and slang can bring an element of creativity and fun into the EFL classroom. These phrases and terms can generally be confusing for new language learners, but with the context, they can add new dimensions to a speaker’s language. Therefore, the addition of these aspects into lessons can help EFL students to feel more connected to the language that they are learning. This can also help to engage and encourage students to be inquisitive and interested in the language that they are learning by giving them a sense of ownership when they can manipulate and be creative with the language.
Slang words are also an essential aspect of most languages. They often can express more about a specific group of people within a culture or society. Therefore, learning slang terms can help non-native learners in developing a sense of belonging within a new group, such as within a business environment or amongst teenagers in a high school. Since EFL instructors need to consider the motivations for why their students are learning English, slang or colloquialisms for the students’ intended English use environments can be an important consideration when planning out course content.
Also Read: What are specialized TEFL courses?
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Slang often has historical and culturally sensitive or significant indicators imbedded into embedded cause serious confusion or embarrassment if slang words are used based on their dictionary definition in certain contexts. Therefore, it can also be an important aspect of preparing students to interact in diverse situations in a native English speaking country to discuss how dictionary definitions can differ from connotations and societal meanings in certain situations.
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