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How to Effectively Integrate Slang and Idioms into TEFL

 How to Effectively Integrate Slang and Idioms into TEFL | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Intelligence has been defined in many ways, including the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. More generally, it can be described as the ability to perceive or infer information and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context (Wikipedia, 2019).

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

Considering Language Habits

At a cosmetic level, language fluency and accuracy, that segregate socio-cultural groups is inconsistent with contemporary thought of nationality origin differentiation, rather relative to culture. Which reproductively energizes and flourishes within the individual dynamics of human ecology. In essence, the relevancy of what people may say, regardless of nationality, is invalidly interpreted and can be quite comprehensive to people's cultural entities.

These speech habits are partially manageable by people possessing EFL, influenced in part with one's receptive skills, via authentic media and/or activated communication.

From a teacher's perspective, teaching the quantitative amount of these types of speech habits would be beyond an EFL person's necessity, generally not important to core language skills and their assessment within the formal examination structure. It would be safe to presume these productive skills would be informally learned during the learner's communication abroad, as the learner peruses intelligence within its new ecology.

happy student

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Yet, Montana Rogers argues 'teaching these common, everyday words and phrases used in information, spoken English can help students speak, improve their fluency and improve their conversation skills' ( Rogers: 2019). Sources of Modern Vocabulary

To a degree, exposure to multi-media and advertising will influence the types of authentic material of interest for teenage and business EFL learners. This language aims to amuse and entertain with specialist abilities, often ungraded to their language level and different from normal request questioning and responsive grammatical statements taught from non-authentic subsidiary material. So, the teacher's approach to this task involves some detail with its planning and implementation on the qualitative side.

This essay critiques some common grammatical structures' of the English language that the teacher can use to integrate slang and idioms into his/her program. It also aims to evaluate the reasons why the teacher must consider learners' at different language levels to execute slang and idioms professionally and meaningfully. Then, carry this knowledge as they progress through the different tiers of English language levels.

It also investigates implementing slang and idioms to enhance the students' motivation. So it is beneficial to the whole class and not specific to learners' who intend to be involved in career prospects or new residencies in an English speaking country.

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Iconic Approach to Teaching

People learn the first language often from parents and siblings at home. It takes the form of everyday needs, emotions, and observations. On a personal level, this creates the basis to learn from mistakes, behave confidently whist right and form their future coherently.

As our values and personal environment change, we go through a process of re-evaluating what shapes our language. I.e. the world around us becomes more complex and demands specialist personal skills. For example, making choices, self-managing behavior and getting creative. So, we become more effective communicators as we adapt our behavior within an environment or context.

The issue is: 'How can teaching bring a second language to life for learners of all ages and language levels?'

It would be accurate to presume for adults their initial interest in EFL directs that toward grammar-translation. I.e. He/she predicts and records every day, necessity-specific statements to learn and likely additions based on some of their values through objective speech dialogue. For example, how does one drive from the airport to the hotel? (where drive, airport, and hotel are considered objects with easily sourced grammar-translation vocabulary to memorize).

students in class

The teacher ought to consider this within the planning of the structure of his/her TEFL. As this could be common and valuable to focus an elicitation phase toward, for a minority of learners' between the age of 11 and 18 years. It can be quite common to be of a focus for an adult's age range, you could say from 22 years and older. So why not investigate nouns and verbs (elicitated from the learners) within the classroom and why, when, how and where this language can be enhanced within slang and idioms? Conflicting with Eric Vargas's opinion 'If your class will not put this language to use (i.e. business English students, test prep students, etc) then it is best to avoid focusing on this topic' (Vargas: 2019).

Initiation of scope for every day, necessity-specific and other student talk based on values will need to reflect age and language level. Then the teacher can show and demonstrate relative language to further develop the learners' EFL skills and explain effective, relative grammar structures focusing on its iconic nature. So, his/her teaching structure focus' on the learners' receptive skills, to recognize slang and idioms. Possibly avoiding the analysis of detailed information read or taught independently, which does have a high potential not to make sense. For example, the language contained in the well known Castrol Automotive Oil slogan -” Oils ain't oils” or the idiom “over the moon”.

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In other words, incorporation of some iconic teaching approaches' for receptive and productive observation skills that open the gate for the teacher to implement language used in clauses' capable of carrying slang and idioms. Illustrating the value of the learner to execute patience and knowledge with their receptive skills, without focusing on short falling from a misunderstanding of communication, exposure to authentic material and multi-media.

At a minimal, this approach encourages using relative nouns and verbs for slang; and function words as complementizer/subordinate conjunctions which can introduce restrictive clauses. For example, “That's not cool” or “It's shower time”.

Then where idioms are of a potential to involve function words, as complementizer/subordinate conjunctions can further form restrictive clauses like, “This toothless tiger” or “That's all eggs in one basket!”.

Directing the learner's interpretation toward a skeleton framework of'objects' and 'subjects of the object' makes for better integration for productive skills for real-life communication scenarios.

Let us consider the above factor is an assumption for learners' from zero knowledge of English, to students who are likely to be able to form basic sentence structures and communicate on simple topics. In general, some learners may be hesitative or give a teacher special respect to undertaking the class from a presentation teaching style. So, learning seems to flow better from the cognitive observation association. I.e. Limiting scenarios to Standard Clauses (object-verb) or: Standard SV-clauses, (which may be in association with a declarative clause).

e.g. 'The pig is hungry'. (Standard SV-clause, declarative)

students having a discussion

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Wikipedia states: 'Declarative clauses like these are by far the most frequently occurring type of clause in any language. They can be viewed as basic, other clause types being derived from them. They are usually declarative (as opposed to exclamative, imperative, or interrogative); they express information in a neutral manner (Wikipedia:2019).

Generally, standard SV-clauses are easily implemented onto scenarios of formal written form or dialogue expression consistent with 'typical' normalities. The problem is that limited types of grammatical clauses disable other clauses being derived from them during verbal communication. Examples like these demonstrate how a clause function cannot be known based entirely on a single distinctive syntactic criterion. (Wikipedia:2019).

The above factors demonstrate the importance of teaching exercises that encourage responsive dialogue. Modified to the students' learning level and the scoped language of the classroom. Then, the overall aim being to formulate responses that encourage positive, inclusive interaction via idioms, slang or icons when needful.

e.g. (statement) The kangaroo jumped over the fence. (objective: declarative) (response) It was a big jump. (subjective/subordinate conjunction: exclamative) (response) As big as Ben Hur. (Medium: exclamative) (response) Hercules! (Icon: annotation)

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Why Slang?

Let us assume, the environment that English language teaching is undertaken is in front of other EFL learners. The learners have grasped communication within their first language, familiar with a wide range of expressions of emotion. However, applying learned standard S-V clauses isn't enough to apply these to real-life scenarios because of the lack of sensitivity and context.

For example, in the emotional case of 'Disappointment'. We could presume the language acquired will be: 'I am disappointed to announce...' Such language contains annotation that is not commonly used (unless a person is announcing devastating news). So another language option is to say 'I don’t want to rain on your parade but..'

The sensitivity and context of this weight can be beyond the language level. Although it can be still considered where students can communicate and understand a greater variety of topics, and basic sentence structures, as the learners, become exposed to wh-words and clauses i.e. (who, what, which, where, when, why, how).

So, the potential of implementing slang is increased as the ESL learner further understands specific implemented clauses and their meaning of which considers positive, inclusive interaction e.g. Why rain on his parade? as opposed to 'why do you want to keep making trouble for him'

student's hand writing

Similarly, for advanced language learners, there is a huge value for slang to be used as a carrier to help describe and extend upon language that another person is communicating via conjunctions, like 'because' and 'but'. Having previously acquired some understanding of slang or idioms and their effectiveness for subjective speech dialogue.

Slang which consists of easily understood meaning can be still beneficial for elementary to upper-intermediate level learners, with a lot of possibilities of activation. For example: hold on, bere with me, that's not cool, we appreciate that, offer more real-life scenario's of role play and can be useful after the student has completed learning the English language academically.

As students become more learned and able to actively communicate on almost all topics towards an advanced language level. The learner's interpretation of the skeleton framework of 'objects' and 'subjects of the object'; can help slang be used as a carrier for grammatical clauses that play several roles in the English language. Such as first verb clauses.

Verb First Clauses Usually Play one of Three Roles:

  • They express a yes/no-question via subject–auxiliary inversion, e.g. "You are going to hold on?";
  • they express a condition as an embedded clause, e.g. "The coat, which was old, could not hold on."; and
  • they express a command via imperative mood, e.g. "Hold On!" (Wikipedia, 2019)

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Teaching Slang and Idioms

Deciding to teach slang and idioms involves three different considerations. The first being: What slang to teach; How well the learners can understand; and Illustrating its integration into TEFL, considering sensitivity issues.

A correct approach could be to devote an entire lesson to slang and idioms, related to preceding language classes. However, some dialects can take the form of dependent or subordinate clauses, which provide a sentence element with additional information, but which cannot stand as a sentence (Wikipedia, 2019). A2 - C1 learners could find this type of informal dialogue/language confusing because:

  • Learners may lack the skills to intermeshed them with the formal productive skills they have learned;
  • There are thousands of idioms and slang terms, and the student also lacks the receptive skills to understand all occasions of their use; and
  • The vocabulary of slang and idioms can often be unrelated to their normal meaning and usage, then making a very heavy stand-alone lesson. I.e. A idiom can mean a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light) (Wikipedia, 2019).

cheerful students

So, the context of this type of language is unconsidered in these types of lessons. Whereas, consideration of iconic, objective and subjective natured words, within an ESA lesson, can help overcome those problems (Bering in mind that learners know the meaning of what these words consist of, or form part of the new language relating to the class' lesson theme).

As learners are made aware of the formalities and context of slang and idioms whilst they learn can add huge value for their language, as it:

  • helps to expand a learners' receptive skills, whilst using and investigating authentic material;
  • enhances iconic language to grow vocabulary for future endeavors;
  • motivates the student to further pursue authentic material; and
  • provides a lot of fun and motivation during class discussions and activities.

It is important to consider the cultural sensitivity of this language and how its communication within a different environment than the classroom should avoid their misuse, outside of a certain function or context. So, providing the correct language as a carrier for slang and idioms, and illustrating the meaning of its terms, as the teacher progresses through the lesson would be ideal for best practice.

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Incorporating Idioms and Slang into English language Teaching

As explained previously, idioms and slang incorporate short phrases and different words equating to another meaning than language being taught. Which is the main issue as the teacher plans the class's overall goal. e.g. 'Today, by the end of the lesson the students will be able to actively communicate language relative to homes'. How does a teacher overcome the hurdle, therefore of tackling the slang phase "on the house" where this has little relation to item furniture, floors, doors, and roof?

Let's be honest, not all slang can be integrated without a great deal of creativity on behalf of the teacher. If the teacher fails it can reduce the confidence of the learners'; receptive skills and back step productive skills.

Teaching students of an elementary level and beyond could involve studies of subsidiary material for enhancement of receptive skills relating to slang and idioms. To identify and provide an opportunity to understand these topics. Then, focusing on detailed information and deducing meaning from its context.

A study phase of an ESA lesson for intermediate to advanced learners could include the learners looking for relevant details from an English newspaper, or listening to an audio CD. Where the teacher uses material graded to the students' language level and, previously taught difficult language before the student reading or listening.

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This can be used as a patchwork ESA lesson. Where the teacher has logged a previous class that aimed to make the students fluent and accurate for language regarding farmed animals and resources they provide. Whilst considering it collaborating with previously elicited flashcards regarding emotion from preceding lessons.

The teacher may engage in learners by miming nouns and verbs associated with disappointment for example. In the scenario of When you accidentally tap and knock over a glass of milk, you had been looking forward to drinking. He/she asks "how do you feel". In this way, the teacher provides a context for the emotion of disappointing and elicitates language from the class.

The first study follows several examples via gap-fill exercises of predicted language regarding present perfect tense for the verbs elicitated. E.g "............ won't help you now"; where crying (or something similar has been predicted). Followed by some drilling for accuracy and a worksheet. The worksheet includes a mixture of clauses that help to describe the meaning of this idiom, however, the aim being to ensure accuracy of the present perfect tense.

students laughing

So, the worksheet clauses include "There is no use ............. over spilled milk" or "I lost my mobile phone, this was a ....................."; where disappointment is the correct answer.

In a second study, the teacher gives the student a newspaper article that reads a disappointing theme regarding an environmental tragedy that has hurt the agriculture industry for students' detailed understanding. He/she focuses on the students reading skills to highlight language for, how the stakeholders' have evaluated their choices.

Then the teacher elicitates and engages language from the students, prompting them (whilst participating and modeling) for examples from their disappointment where they didn't mind, and why not?

A final study could involve the students answering questions based on the newspaper article considering the context of the tragedy and its parameters, relating to the language being taught in the lesson. The teacher could prompt subordinate conjunctions of an exclamation nature. For example, the teacher could ask "If this happened to your best friend what could we say to comfort them?".

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Determining the use of its study phase/s would depend on whether the students are at an intermediate level or somewhere above. As a simplified lesson could be activated using a straight arrow lesson. Deducting its ability to implement function words used as complementizer/subordinate conjunctions to introduce restrictive clauses.

Then, the teacher writes these responses on the board to help in the activation and to aid the learners' productive skills.

It would be quite possible to adapt this ESA patchwork lesson for many idioms within the scope of the language being taught like “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, “Birds of a feather flock together”; or “Leave no rock unturned” using general emotions to help the learners grasp a better understanding of language elements.

These skills are quite testable and easily modified to the learners' language levels. For example, a word jumble for elementary and lower-intermediate level learners. Then, the question scribes the words: Up, Live, It. The students are asked to create the desired slang statement.

Many idioms incorporate a preposition which upper-intermediate and advanced level language level students can be familiarised during lessons and then tested. In this case, asking the students to complete a gap fill clause, being given jumbled words and the preposition, or even not. For example, the students are asked to create their idiom where the question scribes just a preposition.

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Teaching slang and idioms are useful for learners to understand a variety of topics and develop their communication on a wide range of issues. Importantly the teacher weighs up considering their usage within their contextual meaning. It is best done by collaborating language of previous logged classes, drawing upon general language the student can relate to. So, as learning progress' to the next tier of their language level, they can apply slang and idioms at an iconic basis, adapting them to more subtle language items.

Knowledge of the usage of slang and idioms enhance the student's receptive skills from an early language level, thus being able to identify slang or idiom terminology and not be confused about their words. This helps the learners' motivation as they pursue authentic material and exposed to it via multi-media outside of the classroom.

Adopting creative approaches to language teaching enhances the learners' interpretation of a skeleton framework of "objects" and "subjects of the object" as the teacher implements techniques where they can demonstrate alternative language examples (but maintaining some words) by “shuffling” relative nouns and verbs; and function words as complementizer/subordinate conjunctions which can introduce other restrictive clauses for study.

As students become more learned and able to actively communicate on almost all topics towards an advanced language level. The possibilities for the teacher to use clauses that encourage responsive dialogue are increased. With the overall aim to formulate responses that encourage positive, inclusive interaction via idioms and slang when and where necessary. Then, increasing productive skills via the implementation of declarative, exclamative and annotative statements.

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