The Importance of Slang and Idioms
English is a unique and fluid language, its usage changing rapidly throughout surprisingly short periods, throughout different socioeconomic groups, and across different regions. Therefore, it is widely understood that proper English and spoken English have different rules, importantly including the use of popular slang terms and idioms. This means that when someone is learning to communicate with native English speakers, they must learn expressions that will provide a certain context.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Remington T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Someone employed in a primarily English-speaking business will likely find themselves surrounded by cultural idioms; their co-workers, supervisors, and teammates likely use these expressions regularly without a second thought. An employee who has learned the very basics of English, at an intermediate level, may not adapt as quickly to their environment without these vital social cues. For example, casual greetings and friendly banter are common tools to create team cohesion and cooperation. Understanding the context and use for the slang in one’s community creates a tighter social bond, while also helping to avoid possible confusion.
Next, it is important to note that slang is different in every region, as well as with different groups of people. There is no universal slang that can be applied in every English-speaking country, even including the culture of the internet, which has created many more widely used expressions. Though it is not possible to teach every idiom that a person may need to know, it is still beneficial to teach the most common expressions. In doing, it may help to grow a student’s confidence for casual, social language production. However, this does not mean slang should factor in lessons that involve producing language in a professional environment since some expressions are grammatically incorrect or socially informal. It is vital to give students the distinction between phrases that are used in a formal vs informal environment. Since most students’ first languages will have this distinction, they will only need guidance.
The Flexibility of the Language
That being said, slang is constantly changing our language. Many expressions used today, which may have once been improper, evolved to become a part of English. Slang and idioms exist a little differently for each generation, and regardless of an English-learner’s age, they will find that the language of the younger generation becomes the norm as time passes. Therefore it is important to understand expressions that may be informal at the moment are still affecting social growth and interaction. It will take listening skills, social skills, and confidence in their abilities to truly adapt to the ever-evolving nature of English. These skills can all be reinforced with a thorough curriculum, which allows for the experimentation necessary to continue understanding certain slang as it becomes more popular.
Expressions like these appear not just in workplaces or schools, but in any English-speaking environment. Any recreation or entertainment activity will contain slang and idioms; television, sporting events, performing arts, music, books, etc. Any media that is not inherently professional will contain expressions that help the audience understand context clues or create meaning. Therefore a student who wishes to produce language for entertainment or social purpose will find a greater range of expression when using slang and idioms. If satisfied that they are being understood, a student will likely be more confident with production and continue to improve.
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In conclusion, slang is a language within a language and creates a sense of community within groups. A greater cultural experience can be created when a learner understands not only what is being said, but the nuances and tone of the conversation. Using friendly slang encourages social integration and bonding and helps to avoid confusion, which can lead to insecurity or disagreements. It is significant to our culture to say something simple while implying a greater meaning. Slang and idioms have deep ties to culture, wherever they exist, and the only way to learn a language fluently is to understand all or most of it. To be aware of the ever-changing nature of slang will allow students to cultivate a long-term, analytical relationship with the English language.
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