Teach English in JiAngbei Zhen - Changsha Shi

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Cambridge Dictionary defines slang as: “Very informal language that is usually spoken rather that written, used especially by particular groups of people.” Furthermore, the same source defines idioms as: “A group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own.” For purposes of discussion, these two definitions will be weighed together and the question of importance will be applied to a similar subclass of informal speech known as verb idioms or phrasal verbs. According to Cambridge Dictionary, phrasal verbs are defined as: “A phrase that consists of a verb with a preposition or adverb or both, the meaning of which is different from the meaning of its separate parts.” When all three definitions are inspected for similar elements, informal speech becomes a common denominator, and the degree of informality separates the vocabulary. The broader question can be simplified even more, and we might ask ourselves just how important is it for an ESL student to learn to speak and understand informal vocabulary. Also, we should consider where, how often, and under what circumstances this informal speech might be expressed. Naturally, the answer to this question is greatly influenced by which country the student is immersed in. Both phrasal verbs and slang are well rooted to specific English-speaking societies, and they are used almost unavoidably by native speakers. As a result, adopting or acquiring such a vocabulary is not only a good way to sound more like a native speaker, but it is almost essential for better understanding. Certainly, the greater the L2 acquisition and understanding, the easier it is to communicate. Many teachers of English will focus teaching vocabulary and grammar as the learning level of the student increases, and young learners of English are not exempt. Even the smaller words can be constructed to take on larger words or to replace words that are less likely to be retained, especially when using song. For example, Cambridge, “SUPER SAFARI", which is an ESL series developed for young learners of English in the classroom, uses the phrasal verb tidy up in one of the corresponding audio tracks, another way to teach the word clean. The same book teaches listening skills in an audio track using the phrasal verb pick up, as in pick up your pencil. Perhaps phrasal verbs have less universal appeal, especially among other ESL learners within the same native country where many idioms are not popular and can be misinterpreted. Simply stated, certain phrasal verbs may not socially practiced and the language is uncomfortable. Ironically, many verbs often have phrasal verbs as part of their definitions, so perhaps this point alone justifies the importance of teaching phrasal verbs, even for young learners. For example, Merriam-Webster defines the word "implement", as: CARRY OUT. Ultimately, the choice of words should be left to the speaker, and the use of phrasal verbs should be adapted to fit the degree of formality. Having the skill to adjust vocabulary to fit a particular audience can be quite useful. Most teachers agree phrasal verbs are perfectly acceptable for informal situations, but a synonym is preferred over a phrasal verb when writing formally; however, phrasal verbs sometimes cross over into formal speech. What makes learning phrasal verbs difficult for students is that the individual words do not exactly correspond to the meaning of the entire phrase. In addition, depending on how a phrasal verb is constructed, as in a verb transitive, either separable or inseparable, or as in verb intransitive use, the phrasal verb can have more than one meaning. For example, “My car broke down.” (verb intransitive, no direct object, inseparable). In this case, the speaker is saying the car is no longer functioning. In contrast, the sentence, “He broke down the grammar lesson using simple words.” (verb transitive, direct object, separable) takes on an entirely different meaning than the previous example. Here the speaker is saying the teacher explained the lesson in smaller parts using language that is easy to understand. Overall, the meaning phrasal verbs is greatly determined by context, the surrounding words or text. Imagine you are an L2 learner and one day you find yourself driving down a freeway somewhere in America, and a highway patrolman tells you over his loud speaker: “Driver, I need you to pull over to the side of the road.” Having an understanding of the phrasal verb, "pull over to" would probably help you to follow the officer's instruction. Some situations may even be life threatening. A passenger in your vehicle while you are driving shouts: “Look out for that dog!” Suddenly, the language becomes important and relevant. Nevertheless, certain expressions are becoming less idiomatic, and as a bare minimum these phrasal verbs of high frequency should be introduced into the classroom. A teacher may wish to research high frequency phrasal verbs that are less idiomatic. Eventually the similarities of construction will likely present themselves as the vocabulary is used more fluently.