Slang words and phrases are often viewed with scepticism. When learning a new language, the technical aspects such as syntax, grammar and conjugation are, of course, important. But it’s not how the language really works. Conversational and business language are different for a reason. Slang is the part of language acquisition that most people ignore, but it’s also the real foreign language skill you need to master a new language.
While your textbook plays a huge part in language learning, slang is what you pick up when you speak with people in real life and get immersed in the culture of the language. Many people view slang as improper or colloquial only used by the young, uncultured, or uneducated. In truth, there’s a lot of value in slang because it gives the student an insight into the culture of the language as well as idiomatic speech that stretches back centuries. Any decent language learning strategies will recognize the importance of learning slang to become truly fluen. Here are some smart reasons why you need to incorporate slang in your learning journey if you truly want to master a new language.
1. Communicate with anyone, anywhere and at any time
Learning a language needs to be about more than just reading and regurgitating rules. Textbooks can give you a feel of the basics, including the rules of the language, syntax, grammar, basic vocabulary, adjectives and nouns. But these rules have been around forever. To be able to use the language, you must understand how to be current.
It also helps you communicate with people throughout different regions within a country. This is because when you understand slang, you will understand and navigate the variations within language, and different dialects.
2. Don’t put your foot in your mouth
If you don’t understand slang or colloquialism in your foreign language, you open yourself up to committing a major faux pas. For instance, in the Spanish language, there are many words that could be misused if you aren’t aware of modern slang. For instance, definition-wise, ‘estupido‘ simply translated to ‘stupid’ in English, but to the Spanish people, ‘estupido‘ is a much more serious insult than ‘stupid’ in English. It’s similar in France, where you need to know some slang to order a cup of coffee! Because while ‘un café’ means ‘coffee’ in English, it could also refer to ‘un petit café, un café simple, un café noir, un petit noir, un café express, or un express’, which is actually an espresso – that’s what the French drink. If you want an American coffee, you’ll need to explicitly order ‘un café américain’ or ‘un café filtre’.
If you don’t understand the nuances in a language, then it’s possible to create awkward social situations whereby you insult somebody, accidentally say something you don’t mean or order something you don’t actually want – and you should never annoy the people who handle your food.
3. Be one with the people
Slang is used in order to create a sense of belonging and help create a community. Just like a local dialect, slang helps create a community and makes people feel like they are part of a group. If you are attempting to immerse yourself in local life, when living in or visiting a country, it’s important to understand the local slang and align yourself with the people. Without it, you will find it difficult to communicate with people, barter or form bonds – and this is exceptionally important during your language learning process.
4. Slang and idioms have deep ties to culture
Learning slang opens a doorway to learning local culture and history. As you learn a new language, you should be taught about its history, roots and culture.
To understand how to use slang and its meaning, you will need to understand the history and context. When you discover new slang words, make an effort to dig a little deeper and you will learn more about the country and improve your understanding of local people at the same time.
5. Evokes your creative and romantic side
Finally, you mustn’t forget just how important slang can be in language, with regards to evoking emotion. When talking to friends and family, it can be difficult to really express yourself using, perhaps, formal language.
Think about the most emotional times in your life. Perhaps when you’ve been really sad or angry or happy! We often use some form of slang to express our feelings in our first language – just take Singlish for example. The same is true when you speak another language.
Learning local slang allows you to better express yourself, which is key in social situations. To truly learn and understand a language, you have to master every aspect of that language. This includes slang, idioms, and regional dialects. In fact, this is why we seek out translation services and translators that understand these nuances. After all, the ability to provide translation and localization services that meet the needs of businesses and individuals requires the ability to understand slang as well as ‘proper’ language.
That’s why our courses at the Agape School of Education (ASOE) emphasise learning about the culture of the language, not just the linguistic rules. With a focus on the love for languages, you will grow to understand and recognize the value of the language. Our students don’t just learn a language. We teach them to love the language. At the ASOE, that’s real success.
We aim to provide affordable language courses as well as cultural activities and events to those interested in learning a new language. From beginners to advanced, and all levels in between, our goal is to help you instantly immerse in the language of your choice, as well as provide you with the best value for each course.