Since slang appeared in English language in the 16th century, it has gradually become popular among English speakers. Meanwhile, it is difficult for FLL to understand. That’s why, it is needful for teachers to teach it. Some ESL teachers say that it’s not acceptable to teach slang in the classroom on account of its vulgarity. While others believe that slang is an integral part of everyday language. This article expounds the definition of slang and the methods of teaching slang in the classroom. I came to the conclusion that slang is playing a more and more important role in the society of English-speaking world and by means of teaching it in the classroom we can facilitate young learners to have confidence in themselves and interact with native English speakers. Teaching slang in the classroom has always been neglected through the course of time. It’s a result; those who go to a foreign country often suffer from true communication. In the modern world where information owns a great value increases the necessity of quick exchanging and delivering information. Slang simplifies and accelerates this process.
Keywords: slang, teaching methods, song lyrics, simulation, role-plays
The concept of slang has been inexactly defined by many lexicographers who tend to limit it to colloquial or bad language, and the term has been inaccurately used by many sociolinguists who conflate it with such language varieties as cant, jargon, dialect, vernacular or accent.
Slang, informal, nonstandard words and phrases, generally shorter lived than the expressions of ordinary colloquial speech, and typically formed by creative, often witty juxtapositions of words or images. Slang can be contrasted with jargon (technical language of occupational or other groups) and with argot or cant (secret vocabulary of underworld groups), but the borderlines separating these categories from slang are greatly obscured, and some writers use the terms cant, argot, and jargon in a general way to include all the preceding meanings. [1, c.25]
“Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English” affirms that: “Slang is a very informal language that included new and sometimes not polite words and meanings, is often used among particular groups of people and usually not used in serious speech or writing”
The «New Oxford English Dictionary» defines slang as follows:
a) the special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type;
b) the cant or jargon of a certain class or period;
c) language of a highly colloquial type considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense».
We can notice that this word has mostly negative connotations, but there also exist some definitions that lead closer to the better understanding of the notion. For example “Oxford Advanced Leaner’s Compass” alleges that: “Slang is very informal words and expressions that are common in spoken language, especially used by particular group of people, for example, children, criminals, soldiers, etc.”
It is very interesting to observe that not only the criminals and vagabonds are in the list of the social groups using slang but the children and soldiers, moreover children are mentioned first in this list.
Hence, the modern linguists begin to change their attitude towards the concept of slang in general.
When teaching English as a second or foreign language, slang often comes up in the classroom. Students use slang they have heard, or the teacher him or herself uses slang and is met with confused expressions from students, demanding an explanation. Slang in English is used frequently, not just in movies and conversation, but in academic and work life as well. As future ESL teacher, I tried to find out the importance of teaching slang to ELLs and to discover the methods that are used to teach slang to ELLs. [2, p.47]
There are several methods that could be used in various ways to teach slang to undergraduate ELLs. Obviously slang can be found in song lyrics, movies, music, and communications with native speakers. Students should be encouraged to find the slang in these resources on their own, by noticing slang as it occurs in movies, music, and their surroundings or the ESL instructor could also use authentic materials in the classroom to introduce specific slang terms, but also to model how different registers can be navigated and exploited, depending on the situation.
Many of ESL teachers do not include slang into the syllabus because of lack of slang knowledge. Another reason is that slang is changeable. According to Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics slang is rather unstable as its words and expressions can change quite rapidly. New slang appears and older ones die out what makes it impractical to publish a book. [3, p.256]
Slang in the classroom is not for every ESL teacher. Those whose students’ future language usage will be limited to formal situations in which slang is not used may want to spend precious class hours on other topics. Most ESL students, however, will need to know at least some degree of slang if they plan to interact with native English speakers either socially or in the classroom.
Besides, many ESL students find lessons on slang entertaining and enjoyable and give them a nice break from the standard textbook lessons, so most ESL teachers find lessons on slang a welcome addition to the curriculum. If you are looking to make slang a regular part of your lesson plans or are just looking for an occasional break from the standard curriculum, here are some ways you can use slang in your ESL classroom.
Music, simulation and role-plays are best methods to teach slang in the classroom. Music is a powerful stimulus because it can directly speak to our emotions and permits our brains to analyze it. [4, p. 142] It can change the atmosphere in the classroom and prepares students for a new activity while it amuses and entertains them.
Many students derive great benefit from simulation and role-play. Students simulate a real life as if they were doing so in the real world. [5, p. 86] After getting used to listen to native speaker’s speech students can feel more prepared to take part in simulations and role-plays. Acting as native speakers contributes to student’s motivation for learning a foreign language as well. [7, p. 22]
“Music is the universal language of mankind” says Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Have you ever heard of anyone who doesn't like music? Some students may not like art, dancing, reading, or movies, but almost everyone likes one kind of music or another. Most students like many different kinds of music. Studies have shown that music:
- improves concentration
- improves memory
- brings a sense of community to a group
- motivates learning
- relaxes people who are overwhelmed or stressed
- makes learning fun
- helps people absorb material
«Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned» says Chris Brewer.
Music is a powerful stimulus because it can directly speak to our emotions and allows our brains to analyze it. It can change the atmosphere in the classroom and prepares students for a new activity while it amuses and entertains them. It establishes a connection between the world of leisure andthe world of learning…The books that contain song lyrics are the most useful kinds of texts for students to work with, especially the songs in them are the ones that the students are keen on. Therefore, teachers choose songs that they like and the ones which are appropriate for young learners in terms of topic and subject matter. (4, p242–243).
As for how to use song lyrics in class, Harmer (4, p244) recommends some activities. For instance, a) the teachers blank out various words in a song and give the students a list of the omitted words. All the students need to do is to fill in the missing words using the given words while they are listening to the song,b)the students can put the scrambled lines in a song in order or complete half-finished lines,c)the teachers can simply have their students listen to a song and ask what they think the title might be.
In short, since slang has appeared in English language, it has been gaining respectfulness and plays important role in the social status. In the social life, even the words “hi” and “bye-bye” are slang words. So it is wrong if someone neglect slang’s study and using it in the classroom. Slang has its special means and principles. Before teaching the slang word to the students, ESL teacher must understand its exact meaning to use it correctly in speech. Since the teaching of slang is not so common in our country, it is the responsibility of the language teacher to prepare his own teaching materials. For this purpose, song lyrics, movies, and role plays and simulations help him a lot.
1. Burke, David. (1998).Without Slang and Idioms, Students are in the Dark!. ESL Magazine. September/October.
2. Emmitt and Pollock. (1997:47). Language and Learning. An introduction for Teaching. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Richards. J. C., Platt. J. Platt, H. (1992). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Essex: Longman Group UK Limited.
4. Harmer, J. (2001). The Practice of English Language Teaching.Harlow: Longman.
5. Ladousse, G. P. (1987). Role play. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Scarcella, R. & Crookall, D. (1990). Simulation/gaming and language acquisition. In D. Crookall & R. L. Oxford (Eds.), Simulation, gaming, and language learning (pp. 223–230). New York: Newbury House.
6. Thorne, Tony. (2010). Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd