Teaching Slang and Idioms In consideration of whether or not


In consideration of whether or not teachers of English as a second language should teach slang or idioms in class, or rather, why English teachers should teach idioms or slang, I did some research on the internet regarding this particular topic. For the most part, I found one David Burke's article on the subject to be most informative (Burke, 1). I have formed my own opinion on the matter, which I will discuss at length later in this essay.

First, it is constructive to define exactly what slang words and idioms are, to differentiate between the two as well as to be completely precise in this pursuit. Dictionary.com defines an idiom as 'an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements' (dictionary.com, 1). In contrast, slang is 'very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language'; it goes on to define it as 'the jargon of a particular class, profession, etc.' (dictionary.com, 1, 3). While it is not helpful that the definition for slang uses the term idiom in it, it would suffice to say that the main difference between the two is that idiom normally refers to a phrase with a meaning other than its literal one, and slang can be specialized language like street language or office jargon. Clearly, both idiom and slang present a unique challenge to learners of English. How can a student anticipate these terms that are by their very nature exclusive, elitist, and in the case of idioms, very confusing and misleading if taken literally' Take, for example, the idiom 'pushing up daisies': 'Fred is pushing up daisies.' This means that Fred is dead and buried, but if one doesn't understand the idiom, you can very well imagine the confusion of the mental image of a man running in a field pushing flowers around. The true meaning behind the idiom is actually quite morbid, but it is these idioms and slang words that make English colorful and interesting to learners. It is interesting for some teachers to argue that teaching slang has no place in ESL ' I question their logic, as it stems from a misconception that David Burke, also known as The Slangman, puts very well: 'obscenities and curse words could indeed be placed into the category of slang. However, slang in general does not fall into the category of obscenities, a common misunderstanding, especially among nonnative speakers of English' (Burke, 2). In my opinion, a teacher would do an injustice to his or her students to not teach slang or idioms in class. They are what make our language unique. If the students ever intend on traveling to an English speaking country, or have the personal goal of fluency, it is imperative that they learn these phrases that are so very natural to us as native speakers that we rarely consider it a 'big deal' when we use them. However, it would be advisable to teach slang and idioms to a class that could 'handle it'. For example, we wouldn't teach business or street slang to a class of 6 year olds; such a thing would be laughable. It would be better to stick to traditional idioms or slang like 'you let the cat out of the bag', for a class of younger learners. It could even be implemented as supplementary vocabulary so that students could learn them gradually, lesson by lesson or unit by unit. This brings me to my next point: the teaching of curse-words in class. Should they be taught' Again, the question of appropriate levels comes into play. It is best that the students learn the words in class as opposed to on the street; it is a matter of preparation and everyday language for students who intend to travel or live in an English-speaking country. It could save them a lot of embarrassment (Burke, 3).

In conclusion, of course slang and idioms should be taught in the classroom, because it is an important part of English and English- speaking culture as well. For students who want to know more and who intend to be fluent, it is imperative that the skills, phrases and resources be made available to them.

List of Sources:

Burke, David. Without Slang and Idioms, Students are in the Dark! ESL Magazine online archives: http://www.eslmag.com/modules.php' name=News&file=article&sid=36.

Searches for 'slang' and 'idiom' on dictionary.com.

Works Consulted:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0615/p11s02-legn.html - Christian Science Monitor Archived Article about slang language class ' mention of David Burke.

www.slangman.com ' David Burke's website.