Slang and Idioms for Business English Learners
Imagine going back in time to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century in Great Britain. If the question of whether it is proper to teach slang and idioms to students were posed to a teacher in that period, I do not doubt in my mind that any proper English teacher would frown upon the notion of it. If you were to ask an English teacher today, you would receive a much different answer. The gradual globalization of the English language has been driven by various factors, one of which is business.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Allison S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
There is no doubt that English is the world’s trade language, and thus, more and more students are looking to be able to reach the peak of their ability in business English. This leads to the conclusion that, because we live in a very different world than the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the purpose of language and the needs of the students have changed as well. Therefore, we will examine the various facts as to why it is important now that students of business English learn slang and idioms.
The main reason why business English students need to learn particular slang and idioms is the frequency with which it is used in the business world. If there is any doubt as to the commonality of idioms, here are a few of the most popular: big picture, ballpark figure, game plan, learn the ropes, corner the market, by the book, smooth sailing, the elephant in the room, up in the air, stand your ground, on the same page, and no-brainer. These are just a few of the plethora of idioms that are used in daily conversation. They are so common that it is likely native English speakers use these phrases without even considering that they are idioms and that a non-native speaker might not understand.
The other reason it is important to teach slang and idioms to business English students is that it will reduce confusion and increase their confidence when they inevitably hear these phrases in their job. Many of the idioms used in the business world are sports-related. When teaching students from countries without sports like baseball or American football, there is no way for them to understand the foundation or context of these phrases. Thus, when business English teachers properly teach students about the context and application of these phrases, they will be less confused when they hear them, which will increase their confidence in speaking English in the business environment.
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It should be noted that even though business English teachers can and should teach idioms and slang to their students, it is also crucial that a teacher refrains from improperly using English grammar while doing it. Using bad grammar for the sake of slang does nothing to help students be able to use the grammar properly in the future and it does not add value to the education they are receiving. When teaching slang and idioms, it is best to choose the material carefully and to make sure that every phrase the students are learning is pertinent to the business world and relevant to what they will use and hear in their professions.
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If a teacher implements the right techniques and control of the classroom environment while teaching idioms and slang, business English students will be better prepared, less confused, and have a greater level of self-confidence to successfully perform at their job.
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