Teach English in Dalupu Zhen - Yongzhou Shi

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Teaching slang and idioms is very important for ESL students and should be an integral part of any ESL curriculum. Learning slang and idioms can help an ESL student to better understand native speakers who will almost universally use some degree of slang and some idioms in their natural speech. Studying slang and idioms can also help an ESL student to speak more naturally, either compensating for a weaker grasp of English or adding to a strong English base. The application of studying slang and idioms that has perhaps the most relevance in a classroom and to a teacher, though, is that it can help to elucidate complicated grammar by showcasing the way that slang twists the language in creative and unorthodox ways. First of all, understanding slang and idioms is vital for a student to be able to communicate with native speakers. To demonstrate with an example, nearly every dialect of English uses contractions in their language, though most use them differently. An ESL student being taught Canadian English who is not taught any slang or idioms will struggle to understand common phrases - for example, the phrase, “I’m gonna giver,” is nonsensical in General North American English, the dialect taught in most North American schools. This sentence in the standardized dialect would look very different, reading as something along the lines of, “I’m going to put in a lot of effort.” If a student is never taught slang or idioms, they will struggle to understand native speakers to varying degrees, from having slight trouble with cultural and historical references made by a formal speaker such as a university professor, to potentially making it impossible to communicate with a native speaker who is less-educated, rural, or who otherwise speaks a slang-heavy dialect of English. As a corollary to the former point, learning slang and idioms will help an ESL student themselves to sound more natural and to improve their own grasp of the language. As every dialect of English has different slang and idioms and every native speaker uses some localized language when they speak, an ESL student will never achieve fluency or be able to sound entirely natural without learning this important skill. Speech without any slang or idioms whatsoever sounds stilted and overly formal, and is only used in formal settings by native speakers such as in public speeches, broadcasts, and written materials. Without learning this in the classroom, a student may sound mechanical and unnatural, as well as be at a severe disadvantage when attempting to communicate with native speakers outside of the classroom setting. As a final point, and most applicable in the classroom, studying slang and idioms can help an ESL student to better understand the grammar of the English language. Using the same example sentence from above can illustrate this point. The sentence, “I’m gonna giver,” a Canadian English slang phrase, is a grammatically complex sentence when dissected. It can showcase the various mutated forms of the modal verbs that a student has learned in the classroom, such as the informal contraction, “Gonna,” replacing the more formal, “Going to,” to indicate the future tense. The last word, “Giver,” is a homophone with the word of the same spelling in standard English but in this situation is a contraction of the words, “Give her.” This phrase, meaning colloquially, “To apply great effort,” can help to demonstrate the use of phrasal verbs as well as the fact that words can look and sound the same but have different meanings. Finally, it can show a nonstandard way that pronouns can be used, being used in this case to encode presupposed and contextual information by assigning the information an arbitrary gender and making it a grammatical “person” that can then be easily referred to. All of this information and all of these teaching points can be covered by examining a single simple, common slang phrase. If slang and idioms are not taught in the classroom, these valuable teaching opportunities will be lost. In conclusion, teaching slang and idioms in an ESL classroom is incredibly valuable and should be an essential part of any curriculum. Whether it is helping a student to understand native speakers or to better communicate with them, or even helping an ESL teacher explain a difficult grammar concept with a real-world example, the teaching of slang and idioms to students of English is an absolute necessity.