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Teaching North American Slang?
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Capergirl



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 1232
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2003 12:18 pm    Post subject: Teaching North American Slang? Reply with quote

Hey guys...Smile

Do you NA ESL teachers take time in your classes to actually "teach" local slang to your students? I usually just go through the expressions as they come up (i.e. the students bring it up in class or they hear me say something and ask me what it means). Some of the other teachers I work with like to teach one expression per class, choosing some of the most common ones for this area.

If you do teach it, do you distinguish between "good" and "bad" slang? My students recently 'heard' that ain't is an appropriate alternative to isn't. I told them that while it is a slang word meaning isn't, that if they use this word in any context other than joking around, people might get the impression that they are unintelligent and/or uneducated. These particular students are very bright (engineers) and I wouldn't want them walking around saying "ain't" all the time. Embarassed

What do you do in your classes - if anything - about colloquialisms and slang?
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fat_chris



Joined: 10 Sep 2003
Posts: 3135

PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2003 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sheeeeeet. Man, I ain't gots no time to be chewin' da fat 'bout da lingo of da street. Me and ma boyz be learnin' propah English when we is in da classroom. I figure when dey be chillin' at da crib dey can pick up some phat talk wit der homies. I be da prof and I sez we ain't gonna learn no slang, so no, when we git our skool on, we jist learn propah readin' writin' and speakin'

Wink
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Capergirl



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 1232
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2003 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm...no sarcasm in that reply. Laughing Where do you teach, fat_chris (if I may ask)? Smile
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ntropy



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 645
Location: ghurba

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2003 12:23 am    Post subject: absolutely Reply with quote

Capergirl,

I teach EAP at a Cdn. uni which means I'm generally teaching FORMAL writing English for uni which is at odds with what my students hear on the street and campus and the bus and homestays.

Having to constantly reinforce what is FORMAL English vs. what is street English and where each is appropriate.

BTW, years ago spent several classes in Japan teaching why M****ker etc. are not correct English despite the movie English they hear/see.

Ntropy
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fat_chris



Joined: 10 Sep 2003
Posts: 3135

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2003 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capergirl wrote:
Hmmm...no sarcasm in that reply. Laughing Where do you teach, fat_chris (if I may ask)? Smile


I'm currently sidelined from teaching and am sorting out some personal issues in the States before I will enter the EFL arena once again. I was in China for three years until April. To hone my craft, I'm currently tutoring a Chinese immigrant in writing, speaking, listening and pronunciation drills.

To be serious, no, I never taught slang. I felt it was important for my students to get a foundation in formal English first. I have thought of my own experience in learning German (am fluent and have a master's degree). The focus was on perfecting (that is, as coming close as possible to perfection) correct usage of the language, increasing my written and spoken fluency and then focussing on slang--this came about by living in Europe and immersing myself in the culture. My experience and timetable in learning German could be applied to my students' progression as well. I firmly believe that one needs to build a strong foundation and master the basics of a language before working on "extracurricular language activities" like learning slang.

However, I am talking about EFL students, not ESL students. Even with my Chinese tutee (sic?), I don't teach him slang, but I will explain some idioms to him. To make what I wrote above somewhat relevant, no, I would not focus on slang were I an ESL teacher. Even in country, I still firmly believe that students need to speak and write fluently before they should focus on learning slang, once again, master the basics and build a foundation before concentrating on language extras.

When my students show serious correct usage of English and a pertinent need to learn slang, then I would teach it to them; that would NOT be 99.9% of the students I have taught thus far during my feeble existence on this big blue marble (only EFL though, not ESL).

Still dig your avatar-- Wink Embarassed Laughing
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Lynn



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 676
Location: in between

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great topic!

This is very important, especially when teaching in NA. I work in New York and it's so easy to speak broken English here and get by. I'm using the Interchange book in one class, and there is actually an exericse on "gonna". I felt kind of strange teaching it because I always wince when I hear non-natives say, "I gonna go to shopping, okay!" Nevertheless, I introduced it, and we practiced it a few times. The studetns (all Chinese by the way) thought it sounded pretty funny. One man who has lived her for 5 years says he has never heard anyone use it, yet he always says, "I wanna..."

If a question comes up, I'll explain it, but other than that I stay away from teaching slang.
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Capergirl



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 1232
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2003 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's the way I am, Lynn. If a question comes up, I'll explain it. Usually the students will ask me questions about words or expressions they've heard before we begin our regular lesson. I don't mind taking 10 minutes or so for an impromptu explanation. If they continue to ask questions and time is getting short, I'll ask them to write down any other questions they have for future classes so that we can continue with the lesson.

What I have a problem with is some of the "bad" slang they hear, like ain't. I also use texts that include sections about reductions like "gonna" and "wanna", so I take the opportunity to tell them that not everyone speaks like that (I don't). They also hear locals saying things like "I seen" and "I done" and they ask me why. Good question. Razz They want to sound very authentic, which I can certainly understand, but I try to encourage them to use proper English as much as possible and go easy on the slang. Confused

fat_chris wrote:
Still dig your avatar-- Wink Embarassed Laughing


Well, I'd say I dig yours, too, but Freud might read something into that. Wink Laughing
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Gordon



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 5309
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was living in the land of the ice and snow, I'd teach my class "eh" when we were doing tag questions in class. I'd teach them the proper use of it and give them a homework assignment where they had to use eh with 5 different people that day as a practice. Their feedback from those 5 people were really positive and the students had a lot of fun.
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Capergirl



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 1232
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@ntropy...I meant to also ask you "what part of Canada?" (feel free to PM me if you don't want to say on here). Smile My location is no secret...just click on the "www". Wink

Hey Gordon, the students here often learn "eh" before we even get a chance to teach it to them. Laughing My boss (who also teaches some classes) loves to teach the students this common dialogue: "Jeet chet?" "No, jou?" (Did you eat yet? No, did you?) Cool
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Gordon



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 5309
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those were low students I had. Small things got them excited about English. I wish my students in Japan got excited about something. Rolling Eyes Dead city.
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dln



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once again, I find myself in agreement with the fat guy (thanks, chris). I personally feel that slang and regional idioms USED by non-native speakers in general is a bad idea. Never comes across as quite natural and, come on, native useage. I prefer as a tutor to have students use more "proper" English.
That said, sometimes students need to UNDERSTAND slang or idioms - so in my classrooms I confined these to questions from students about what they've heard or read.
When teaching in North America, this could be daily - elsewhere, maybe weekly. But I ask students to bring in words or phrases that they've heard; I'm not going to try to guess what might be relevant (except for that ever-present Canuk "EH" which I haven't mastered myself yet!!).
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Capergirl



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 1232
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2003 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you, dln. I think that ESL students need to focus on a mainstream version of the language, something that can be understood in just about any part of the English-speaking world. I don't believe it's in their best interests to pigeon-hole themselves with one dialect. {Hey, I've even heard Newfoundlanders speak semi-proper English when talking to someone from Ontario or "out West". Wink} What students often don't realize (until we point it out) is that regional slang is only useful if they plan to stay in this region (which they don't). It is better for them to stick to proper English and to use expressions that are common to many parts of the English-speaking world, not just the area that they are in currently.

One thing I've had a problem with is the whole British/American thing, though. Most of my students had British ESL instructors prior to coming to Canada. So when they say "lorry", I know that they mean "truck" but most people in this region do not. So I try to get them to use truck instead of lorry, for the simple fact that no one will know what they are saying. Confused I do think it's great that they know both words, but they also have to know when to use them. Another one they say a lot is "rubber" (eraser). Of course, "rubber" in Canada means condom, not eraser, so when I point this out they always find it really amusing (especially if I point it out right after someone has asked a classmate for a "rubber"). Laughing
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dln



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2003 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember a dusty old British slang lesson in a rather famous series, which I'll leave unnamed here. It included a very nice request for smokers "Can I borrow a fag?" Needless to say, if a student tried THAT one in an airport in New York, for example........................!!!
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Sherri



Joined: 23 Jan 2003
Posts: 748
Location: The Big Island, Hawaii

PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2003 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this is an important topic. I remember getting really frustrated with my Japanese teacher for not wanting to teach me informal Japanese--which is what almost everyone spoke. She only wanted to teach us formal Japanese which is made up of different verb forms and expressions. She wasn't doing us any favors by "sparing" us from what she thought was improper Japanese.

I am not teaching in the US but when I taught in London, I tried to make my students aware of the language which people used. I also tried to make sure they knew what they could actually say and not offend (or sound inappropriate) and what is taboo. I think Michael Swan's English Grammar in Use has a great section on the usage of taboo words as he calls them.

Japanese for example hear us saying oh my God, or thank God and they want to say it too. But it often sounds weird to hear them use these expressions. They just don't sound natural coming out of their mouths. It takes a long time to be able to use these and other phrases naturally. I do stress this with the students. I think the first step is building an awareness of the slang or commonly used expressions in context and just get students to recognize their meanings.

My husband who is Japanese uses what we call "conehead English" after the Saturday Night Live coneheads. His English is good, but too formal which is how he was taught. So now I am trying to teach him more natural and less formal ways of expressing himself. For example when stopping the car at a reststop he said to me that I could get out and "extend my body"--instead of saying "stretch".
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been_there



Joined: 28 Oct 2003
Posts: 284
Location: 127.0.0.1

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 4:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Teaching North American Slang? Reply with quote

Capergirl wrote:
Hey guys...Smile

Do you NA ESL teachers take time in your classes to actually "teach" local slang to your students?

...

What do you do in your classes - if anything - about colloquialisms and slang?


When I was teaching (mostly Chinese immigrants) in Brooklyn, I found that most of them had already learned slang phrases. One guy would always say, "right on" when he agreed with me. Typical New York reductions also abounded ("Whaddya" for "What do you").

As I was teaching survival English, I would usually explain the "proper way" once, but, as long as they were understandable, I let it slide.
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