Teach English in Xingqiao Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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Slang and idioms' inclusion within ESL/EFL curricula is presently neither universal nor without controversy. But when real-world, natural, confident fluency is the goal, familiarity with relevant slang & idioms is important enough to warrant, if not demand, their inclusion in language curricula. The arguments are essentially that slang and idioms are either ‘impure’ language unworthy of inclusion within ESL/EFL curricula, or are ‘necessary’ for inclusion to provide real-world, natural, confident fluency. The two arguments aren't mutually exclusive, with some exceptions. ‘Huh?' By definition, both slang & idioms are, in part, non-standard language particular to a minority or specific group. So this justifies the purists’ argument. But the necessitists’ argument is justified by the fact that real-world fluency involves the language actually used, be it proper or otherwise. Every subgroup of people, whether organized by geography, industry, or hobby has slang & idioms specific to themselves. Those familiar to the language yet unfamiliar with or foreign to any of these subgroups would be as ‘lost’ as to the meanings of the slang & idioms as if the language itself was foreign. For example, though a pilot and baseball player may be from the same ‘burg’, the baseball player is likely to understand the pilot’s, “I was joker fuel, so I RTBed at buster” every bit as much as -that is to say, equally as little as- that pilot will understand the baseball player’s, “The bases were juiced, so their ace was thrown some chin music.” Slang and idioms are found in virtually all speech and text. Put differently, it’s extremely likely that not a single person ‘on the planet’ communicates using language in only a pure, unambiguous, or non-colloquial way. Have you witnessed an English professor speaking privately to their spouse, parent, or best friend? If so, even they, in at least this situation, were likely speaking in a way which might ‘get an F’ were it transcribed and graded. Natural, real-world language is far from being pure, yet predominates our real-world language use. It’ everywhere. It is ubiquitous in music, text messaging, and social media, informal emails, and friendly speech. If one wants to thoroughly understand music lyrics or even use social media and text messaging, ‘they’d best get’ familiar with at least some of the basic relevant slang –‘ASAP, LOL’ because it’s used ‘24/7'. Slang and idioms are worthy of inclusion in ESL/EFL curricula due not only to their facilitation of real-world, natural, fluency, but also for their usefulness as a teaching tool. Most learners of any language are naturally curious -especially young learners and those at the CEFR-A levels- of slang, idioms and ‘bad language’ of other languages. This can be useful as a motivator, to attain or maintain interest, or as a vocabulary tool. Learning slang can make them feel like ‘insiders’ and a ‘cut above’ their purist counterparts, while learning idioms can be used to introduce new vocabulary in a way which is more memorable and thus ‘likely to stick’ or ‘take root’. Teaching the idiom ‘over the moon’, for example, could introduce the word ‘moon’ and subsequently an entire lesson on astronomical bodies. The idiom ‘to pull my leg’ could introduce the word ‘leg’ and subsequently an entire lesson on body parts. What factors should be considered in deciding when is appropriate for teaching slang & idioms? There are many slang expressions and idioms which could be considered inappropriate or unnecessary for teaching due to the learner’s age, culture, religion, customs, or language focus. Contemporary music as realia, for example, is a very common teacher’s material. But using a popular rock or rap selection could likely be inappropriate, especially for young learners. Also, especially idioms could be too complex for ESL/EFL CEFR A-level learners, who haven’t yet enough base knowledge to comprehend some idioms without inefficient ‘word-for-word’ explanations. Learning any ‘bad language’ would be very inappropriate if among a religiously conservative student body, school, or nation. Slang & idioms might be most relevant and valuable when language fluency/familiarity regarding a particular trade or hobby (e.g. the aviation industry, dance world, international finance, or online gaming) is specifically focused upon. Slang & idiom teaching can also be specific to a nation (or region within the same nation) of anticipated predominant exposure; American slang & idioms, for example, would be valuable to those expecting to interact primarily with Americans; British slang & idioms will be ‘a world away’ more valuable to those expecting to interact primarily with people from England (or perhaps to a lesser extent, Great Britain). And learning a handful of slang & idioms from the American South might be useful to those expecting their company to send them there for a year. In summary, ESL/EFL students’ familiarity with slang and idioms is necessary for natural, real-world communication. ESL/EFL students who have learned exclusively proper, formal English ‘by the book’ and find themselves using English in the real world, will, relative to their peers who have learned relevant slang & idioms, be at an undeniable disadvantage and far ‘behind the ball’ where regards natural, comfortable, confident, real-world English. Furthermore, learning slang & idioms for a specific geography, industry, or hobby could prove absolutely crucial for even basic function.