Teach English in Huhemudu Zhen - E'erduosi Shi — Ordos

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By Heidi Gibson In most cases English Second Language (ESL) students find themselves in a foreign land, surrounded by people of a different culture who converse using a medium of expression that is almost totally unknown to them. This impression will change – more especially as they seek to immerse themselves in this new language and culture – as time passes. However the role played by the teacher as a cultural connector or bridge between the students and the language becomes increasingly important. ESL students will quickly learn that there is so much more to learning English than what is taught in the classroom. They will pick up that there are other ways to communicate what you are feeling, your thoughts and opinions. Slang, colloquialisms, sayings or idioms are all part of the tool box English native speakers can hand pick from in order to get their message across. It just depends on the circumstances. And ESL students will want to learn which ones they can use at the right time and in the most appropriate way. Students will be exposed to slang and idioms and will bring this to the classroom. Teachers should harness this experience in a positive way in the classroom and offer students a deeper understanding of the language and the culture. After all, learning a language is so much more than just words. Students would have watched television shows, soap operas, conversed with an English friend using WhatsApp or another social media platform. These platforms also have their own vocabulary, which some may argue, should not be included in the classroom. But which I would argue, must be included, as they already are accepted in corporate and legal circles. Then there are those little, round, yellow faced Emojis. These, too, are a form of communication. But exactly how and where they fit in in the learning of the English language can be debated on another day. For the purposes of this essay, slang and idioms are the forms that will be looked at closely. So what is slang? According to the Urban dictionary website ¹, “Slang is an informal term that stands for or means something else than its literal meaning; a shorter way to say a word or phrase. The writing explained website ² puts it simply and states that “Slang involves the use of words or phrases that are considered informal language”. For example, in today’s world, the word ‘epic’ can mean something was highly enjoyed. Another example would be the word ‘lit’ such as ‘that party was lit’ which means it was super cool, amazing – the best! There are hundreds of others. Now, what is an idiom? “An idiom is a phrase which doesn’t mean anything by itself, but can be used in a sentence to mean something indirectly. It is a specific jargon which is used in specific contexts. (Grumpel.1974:12 as cited in Fernando and Flavell.1981:28-28) cited in the paper entitled “Idioms and Importance of Teaching Idioms to ESL Students: A Study on Teacher Beliefs” by Sridhar Maisa and D. T. Karunakaran ³. The Wikipedia website (4 )defines an idiom as “a phrase or an expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. Categorised as formulaic language, an idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning”. Maisa and Karunakaran further draw on the research of McCarthy & O’Dell (2008) (5) that states among others, ‘idioms are connected with the themes of animals, the sea, sports, parts of the body, food and drink, colours, names of people and places, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Idioms are used to describe physical appearance, character and personality, work and success, health and illnesses. McCarthy and O’Dell note (6) that the origins of idioms come from a variety of sources, such as, ‘from a time when people worked the land’ and are ‘closely connected to animals’ such as he is the black sheep of the family, take the bull by the horns. ‘There are idioms that are connected to science such as she has a short fuse and we are on the same wave length. There are others that come from the Bible such as salt of the earth, some that come from feelings and emotions such as she broke my heart.” The question posed in this summative essay is; Is teaching slang and idioms important for ESL students? I would argue, not only is it important but imperative as this knowledge will enrich the lives of students and broaden their language vocabulary. It will allow for creative expression and increase fluency. This will add to a student’s conversational skills. Ultimately it will broaden their awareness of language. And last but not least it will build community within and outside of the classroom so that they will not feel as if they are strangers in a foreign land. Simply put, in their paper entitled “Slang in the ESL Classroom” Kristin Jatkowski Homuth and Allison Piippo (7), stated that ESL students found that it was difficult to communicate with their co-workers because they did not understand the slang used”. Think about how much better things would be when ESL students not only understand what is being said but they can add their ‘two bits worth’ or participate. Teachers should embrace these forms of communication, share knowledge and give students the tools and resources to understand these terms and their meanings. They should design and construct lessons about when and where it is appropriate to use them and in the case of idioms they should teach students about the relevance of using these expressions. All of this will broaden an ESL student’s knowledge and help to bridge the gaps that exist when learning a different language. In conclusion, consider the converse for one minute. The consequence of not including slang and idioms learning would, I would argue, keep students outside of their social circles and outside of the mainstream of communication leaving them ‘out of the loop’ and ‘in the cold’. References 1. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Slang/ 2. https://writingexplained.org/?s=slang 3. Paper entitled ‘Idioms and Importance of Teaching Idioms to ESL Students: A Study on Teacher Beliefs’ as published in the Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (AJHSS) Volume 1 – Issue 1, May 2013 ISSN: 2320-9720/ page 4/ as found on website: www.aihss.org 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiom 5. Paper entitled ‘Idioms and Importance of Teaching Idioms to ESL Students: A Study on Teacher Beliefs’ as published in the Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (AJHSS) Volume 1 – Issue 1, May 2013 ISSN: 2320-9720/ page 3/ as found on website: www.aihss.org 6. Paper entitled ‘Idioms and Importance of Teaching Idioms to ESL Students: A Study on Teacher Beliefs’ as published in the Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (AJHSS) Volume 1 – Issue 1, May 2013 ISSN: 2320-9720/ page 3/ as found on website: www.aihss.org 7. “Slang in the ESL Classroom” Kristin Jatkowski Homuth & Allison Piippo Eastern Michigan University presented at the Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Conference Kalamazoo, Michigan, October 7-8, 2011 www.mitesol.org. page 42 ENDS