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Teaching Idioms and Slang: Why Learning Idioms and Slang Connects Cultures

Teaching Idioms and Slang: Why Learning Idioms and Slang Connects Cultures | ITTT | TEFL Blog

When it comes to learning a new language, the way that we make it comfortable for us is to try and relate it to our language. How many times have you met someone from another country and you ask them how to use swear words or how to say something is cool in their native language. Since English is very commonly spoken all over the world, for students to learn idioms and slang is for them to not only learn how to say certain things but get a deeper cultural understanding. With that deeper understanding comes relativity to their own lives, which means they see the ways that we are more similar instead of different.

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

Learning Goals

When it comes to learning English, there are many reasons why a person wants to learn. These examples might include increasing their eligibility for certain career or education opportunities or maybe they will move to a country where English is the most common language between foreigners. But, we all know of the common textbook language that we learn at the beginning of learning every language: “Person 1: Hello. Person 2: Hello. How are you? Person 1: I am fine. How are you?” This dialog is something you do say in most everyday speech but of course but it’s so surface level that it almost doesn’t mean anything in passing conversation. It’s just something that people say and truly the very basic aspect of the language.

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When to Start Teaching Slang and Idioms?

After a student learns how to properly communicate, teaching slang shows that they have a deeper understanding of language context and therefore can understand slang when it's said by a native English speaker. Slang in English has so many versatile aspects. For example, English from the United Kingdom is different from the English of the United States that’s different from Australia, so on and so forth. Each country has its slang. When you break it down further, each country also has its regional slang. This can get confusing but depending on where the teacher is from, he or she has the opportunity to delve into his culture and share a piece of why people say this type of slang.

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Learning Cultural Context

In terms of slang that derived from pop culture, it gives students a view into the phenomenons that made the terms popular. Within a teaching curriculum, this might be a cool way to incorporate YouTube/Vine videos into your class. Tying both aspects together, if students, typical teenage or young adult learners learn these slang terms, it helps them stay relevant when talking to native English speakers of their age and they can keep up with conversations as well as make friends because of the relativity in the conversation.

Teaching Idioms as a more classical approach to them. It shows a more artistic form of English and gives students a mindset of what was happening during the time the idiom was created (granted if you want to go deeper into the creation of the idiom itself). Teaching idioms shows how English can be an art form and create a pool of meaning out of a word. This is important because it teaches students not to learn English deeper than face value. A lesson on idioms also proves that the students have a fuller understanding of English. Idioms in English do not directly translate to idioms in other languages. So, within a lesson, this could be the opportunity for students to find comparable idioms in their language, of course, translated to English to find a similar meaning.

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When it comes to learning languages, we are fast to point out the differences. If students are allowed to learn slang terms and idioms, it gives them a deeper view that goes beyond the pages of a textbook or the words on aboard. It gives them the view of why people say certain things, what influenced the slang, and a piece of the culture the slang comes from. Within these lessons, the students get a view into the culture and therefore relates to the people speaking the slang and idioms, drawing the similarities and not the differences.

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