News / USA

Demand Grows for Classes in English Slang

Demand Grows for Classes in English Slangi
November 27, 2013 12:01 AM
Many people who learn English as a second language think they have a good grasp of it until they watch an American TV show or speak to someone from the United States. Then they realize there's a lot they don’t understand. Some are coming to the United States to learn American slang and that's sparking greater demand for courses that teach it. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Demand Grows for Classes in English Slang
Many people who learn English as a second language think they have a good grasp of it until they watch an American TV show or speak to someone from the United States and realize there's a lot they don’t understand. Some are actually coming to the U.S. to learn American slang, since it's rarely taught in textbooks back home. 
Most people come to Venice Beach seeking sun and entertainment, but for Hussain al Shahri of Saudi Arabia and his classmates, the beach is a classroom.
Their teachers are strangers they meet by the beach.
Al Shahri is taking a class on American “street talk” and slang. Field trips, combined with classroom discussion, make up most of his learning experience in a class at the University of California Los Angeles.
“If you want to know this culture, you have to communicate with people and socialize. So slang language is the only way to communicate and socialize with people," said Al Shahri.
Knowing the culture also means learning from American media, said “Street Talk” instructor Ryan Finnegan.
“American movies are global, and [so is] American music. So they hear these words, and they hear them used a lot, and they see maybe people laughing at those words, and they want to understand what’s funny about that,” explained Finnegan.
Finnegan pointed out the slang in TV shows as examples for his students.  Student Zhang Jiu Hua said the English she learned in China was very different. 
“It makes my English style more academic and formal and a little bit stiff. I don’t want to be that way,” said Zhang.
Zhang said that through the use of American slang and idioms, she can speak more casually and use humor in her speech. Through slang, she is also learning about differences between Chinese and American culture.
“There is a slang I love: 'drop dead gorgeous.' In my culture, I still remember when I was a child my parents told me 'don’t use dead. It’s very rude and unlucky.' And when I say that word 'drop dead gorgeous,' I’m curious. Can I use that? Actually, I love that word,” said Zhang.
Finnegan notes that while it provides benefit to students, teaching slang presents a specific set of challenges that more conventional language instruction does not face.
“Slang is extremely regional and extremely dynamic.  So the slang from even one year ago is different from the slang of right now,” said Finnegan.
Judy Tanka, who develops curriculum at UCLA Extension's American Language Center, said that instructional materials will need to improve as demand for slang and idiom classes grows.
“A lot of materials get outdated very quickly and it’s very expensive to republish books frequently with updates, and this is why online materials will be very popular," said Tanka.  
With a working knowledge of American slang, Zhang will return to China and use what she's learned to advance her career. Hussain al Shahri said he will be better able to immerse himself in American life as he pursues an education in the United States.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs