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Do you as an native english speaker understand when a french speaker says in an animated fashion ?the sunshine of lead? (un soleil de plomb= brilliant sunshine). If you are like me you take a mental step back, shake your head and wonder if you're losing your marbles or going deaf! Small wonder then that people who are not native english speakers sometimes look at us as if we've just come down from the trees. Do they understand when you say ?they're losing their marbles or ?they have just come down from the trees. I suggest that they don't and they are confused until the meaning is made clear to them. Slang and idioms are the mainstay of our language, a cultural heritige and a part of our history. They give colour and a historical depth to our language. This if taught well adds a knowledge that perhaps many native speakers can't boast; along with a ready understanding of some of the absurdities of the language. For instance ? to chunder has it's roots it the nautical expression watch under, meaning I'm about to be sick.
Now to me that expression suddenly makes sense! How do we teach slang and idioms? ?Song lyrics contain slang expressions. ?These can be used to match slang to the song and to get the meaning of the expression. This can be done in pairs or as a group. The students ought to be asked if this language is formal or informal (depends on the L2 level) or be introduced to informal english. Idioms can be effectively taught as cartoons characters doing the idiom and the phrase underneath. This can lead to a healthy discussion of what they're doing, how it makes sense and what the true meaning is. Purists would not be happy with the teaching of slang or idioms and you don't see them in an english exam, but foreigners do say that they frequently don't understand whats being said to them, even though there english is technically very good. The english club has 270 slang words in there quizzes, these can be incorporated as homework (internet connections
available) or used in class as a fun study. Or printed out to use as worksheets. There are groups of Slang, British english, American english and australian english, Offensive, vulgar and taboo. It is all to easy for beginners to use inappropriate slang. This can be because a word in their language isn't deemed offensive or taboo but is the opposite in england or the english speaking world. Slang and idioms are much more widely used in spoken english than in written english. Hearing the phrases (as indicated above) takes practice and comprehension comes with practice and exposure to listening. The
history and roots of the words can also help (as in the history of the idiom chunder) to clarify a meaning. There is a book published (Michael Joseph) in the mid 1970's which is a history of rude words. Bozzie mon cu is the title which comes from the Napoleonic wars when the english soldiers frequently heard the french saying something which sounded like that and so taunted them by repeating it. Of course it means in french kiss my arse! Or F*** you. I suppose you could incorporate other historical conflict gestures to add interest. The V sign comes from the Battle of Crezy and is a reference to the archers who used that to hold the arrows before firing them. We use it in a similar context as Up yours. Finally let me leave you with the American poet ?Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) who is reputed to have said ‘slang is a language which takes off its coat, spits on it's hands and goes to work'. Kinda love it and I will read his poetry as a result! references ? french
Idioms C W E Kirk-Greene ? ? idioms.thefreedictionary.com ? www.urbandictionary.com ?? Slang how do young Brits speak? Sally Trowbridge. http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/language-assistant/essential-uk/slang-how-do-you British council ? www.englishclub.com NB I am not sure if the spelling of the book published by Michael Joseph is correct as it was a proof copy which I was given and which I have in france and I am unable to find a reference to it on the web. Should you need clarification of this I will have to provide you with one at a later date as I am currently in the UK.
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