Teaching Idioms and Slang to TEOSL StudentsLearning to communicate and understand in English when that is not your first language can be a daunting task. Those of us that have grown up speaking and listening to English have an understanding for things that were never explained to us but are so common to our experience that we just somehow "know " their meaning. Idioms and slang are examples of this. It is important that students
of English have instruction and introduction to these topics so that they can effectively understand what is being spoken around and to them.
According to UsingEnglish.com an idiom is "a phrase where the words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words." To the English student
common phrases such as "let the cat out of the bag", "wolf in sheep's clothing", "kill 2 birds with one stone" and "he's an eager beaver" would have a much different meaning if looked up word for word in a dictionary. However, native english speakers
automatically identify each of these phrases as having nothing to do with the animals they speak of but instead identify something common to life. These and many others are used so frequently that to neglect to introduce and familiarize TEOSL students
with their existence and meaning will 'leave them in the dark' as to what is being communicated to and around them.
Slang words are commonly used words that are substituted for other words to provide an "informal, often entertaining" option. Examples of slang usage would be: armpit meaning undesirable place, hammer meaning accelerator, earful meaning lots of talk, dough meaning money and taken meaning cheated out of. Again slang words used in conversation would give a sentence a whole new, and confusing meaning if taken at face value and using a dictionary definition. However, slang occurs often and is so commonly used that native english speakers
won't even think of the confusion caused to the non-native speaker
It would be daunting and impossible to teach idioms or slang words in one lesson and move on. UsingEnglish.com lists 3,602 English idiomatic expressions! Manythings.org/slang lists over 280 common American slang expression. An article on eHow.com, "How to Teach Slang/Idioms to esl students
" by Karen Farnen provides 4 guidelines . The first is to present idioms and slang in a realistic context and to only give a few at a time so as not to overwhelm the students
. Secondly, the author recommends using language just as it is spoken, using contractions and shorten forms where common so that the students
will be used to naturally-spoken speech. The third point suggests using games and activities to make the learning fun. There are many online resources that can be utilized. About.com provides quizzes on Common Idiomatic Phrases that could be used in the classroom. Lastly, the author suggests bringing many authentic materials into the classroom that use idioms or slang. Movie clips, newspaper/magazine articles and TV advertisements are just a few places that could provide fun examples of the commonality of idiom/slang use in the English language.
Introduction to and familiarity with idioms and slang is an essential part of effectively communicating and understanding English. Teaching both in small segments on a regular basis can add some variety, flavor and down-right fun to any TEOSL class room.
eHow.com/How to Teach Slang/Idioms to esl students
About.com/education/english as 2nd language