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How important is slang in language learning?On one hand, slang is unavoidable, no matter what language you’re speaking. The phrase “worst movie ever” may not show up on BBC’s website anytime soon, but you’ll see constructions like these daily on Facebook and blogs. What’s more, communication mediums such as texting and Twitter are moving so far from formal language that even native speakers can have trouble figuring out messages like “word” and “big up.” Let’s take a language student, attending daily classes. They study the grammar, the formalities, the subtle differences between look at and watch. They might produce lovely coherent sentences and conversations. Take this student out of the classroom and away from the textbooks, though, and they will encounter a world of language that breaks those rules. In advertising, online, and in conversation, language becomes far less structured. Taking the time to understand slang and informal speech might save someone a whole lot of confusion. In understanding and in speaking, it will allow that student to use language in a current way. Of course, there are some potential obstacles when you try to learn slang.For one thing, learning a language is hard enough! Remembering vocabulary and syntax is a job in itself, especially when elements of the language don’t exist in your native tongue. Attributes like tonality and honorific speaking, for example, can throw native English speakers into spirals of confusion, since they don’t exist in English. With slang, there also comes a whole sliding scale of social appropriateness; one that can vary, confusingly, from person to person. I wouldn’t use “bullshit” or “asshole” with family; some native speakers might. One wouldn’t type “gimme” or “gonna” in an email to a professor, though the terms might be used orally in a class discussion. Slang can also toe the line between casual and offensive. Personally, I loathe terms “uh-huh“ or “whaddup.” As a teacher, I would reprimand any ESL student using those terms, and yet that student probably hears them used quite casually by native speakers on a daily basis. Trying to navigate the best time and place for slang terms can bring about enormous confusion for a language learner. In the end, I think slang’s relevance depends on the language student’s goals. If you plan to attend university abroad, then formal language is what you’ll be using daily for essays and formal emails. If you’re using that foreign tongue for work, you will also need to communicate formally and properly. If, on the other hand, you’re learning a language in order to simply get by and socialize in a foreign place, you’ll encounter and use a lot more slang. Slang will always come up in the language learning process. It’s important, yes, but not more so than the proper mechanics of a language. We’ve all met travelers who have picked up English exclusively through television and rap lyrics. They’re the ones who swear like sailors and talk like a Fresh Prince Mad Lib, with terms like fly and bro being emphasized unnaturally. It’s a bit charming, but a bit impractical too.