The text-book way of learning a language has a long learning curve. This is so because of the many aspects that you have to grasp. Not to mention that it’s simply not a good fit for many students. Thanks to research, today we know that there are different types of learners – and learning from textbooks is not for everyone.
However, the use of slang in such a process changes the whole scenario and makes the learning process easier as there is some level of real-life practice involved.
Being immersed in the real culture where the language is spoken is one of the best and natural ways to absorb a language quickly. It’s also great for motivation as it keeps students more in touch with real spoken language and further away from textbook phrases and structures.
Here are just some of the aspects why slang is important for language learners:
1. Accelerated Understanding
You need to know how a particular language works if you want to speak it. This is done on a much deeper basis than just cramming grammatical structures and fixed phrases. After all, you need to learn how to form your own sentences and thoughts in another language. The best and easiest way to do that is to understand how native speakers think.
Therefore, this might require you to understand the various aspects of the language in question. By using slang, you make it easier to grasp various concepts and workings of the language. In other words, learning a language’s slang is like taking a look behind the scenes. For example, knowing the origin of Chinese will help you understand the phrases and idioms used in the language itself.
Instead of looking at fixed phrases and sentences and learning them by heart, you will learn how native speakers bend and adapt language to their own daily lives and culture. Finally, when you grasp slang (in any language), you will also get a much better understanding of standard speech.
2. Sense of Belonging
Using slang will help you to connect with people and feel what it is to be with them. This is because groups of people that use slang have developed some strong connections or bonds among them.
Slang, in this regard, is somewhat of a secret code. It’s like insider info between speakers that have something in common. It’s also a great way to instantly establish rapport with anyone.
Slang is closely connected to subcultures and age groups, so when you connect to foreign language slang, it’s like you’re finding your own tribe within a big group of people. After all, you talk in a specific way in your own language.
Since you are interested in learning a new language, this sense of belonging that comes from using slang can offer an ideal pathway. It’s also a great way of showing native speakers that you are interested in their daily culture and everyday speech.
If you’re planning to travel to the native country of the language you are learning, slang will be of tremendous use. You will actually walk a mile in the shoes of a native speaker, and not just regurgitate knowledge from language learning textbooks.
3. Increases the Pace of Learning
When you use slang, you are primarily communicating and trying to connect with other people who speak that language. Therefore, using slang can help to speed up your learning curve, and this can be of immense benefit to you since you will spend less time learning the language.
This is because it has been proven multiple times that conversing with native speakers is one of the best ways to absorb the natural flow of language.
When learning, it’s always smart to equip yourself with interactive, fun ways of learning. This includes games, apps, flashcards and other types of edutainment (education + entertainment). You can use flashcards for slang expressions, too, if you want to expand your vocabulary.
There are also many online apps, games and interactive platforms that can boost your learning pace.
Nancy Howard, translator and writer for Supreme Dissertations, says: “One of the best ways to take advantage of the perks of our digital age is to chat with a native speaker. This is the easiest way to learn slang in a natural environment and incorporate it into your own way of speaking”.
4. Learning Local History
Part of learning a language is learning the history of the language and the communities who use and have used the language. This relates to, for example, the etymology of words, cultural backstories behind phrases and idioms, or simply understanding cultural and historical references.
Communicating in slang can help to spark an interest in this area. Whichever way you care to slice it – learning history can help you in learning and further understanding the language in question. Nowadays, modern pop culture also plays a huge role in how the slang is used and formed.
When you are not sure what a particular slang word or phrase denotes, look it up online or ask a native speaker. In most cases, you will be surprised by the fun backstory behind it. In the end, learning a new slang word and its origin will make you fall in love with the language even more.
To sum this up, most slang is like the bits of a language or like building blocks. Many advantages come with using slang when learning a new language.
Accelerated understanding and an increase in learning speed are among those advantages. You will also get a better understanding of the local history and get a sense of belonging within that bigger story of a foreign culture.
Finally, learning and using slang is great motivation to keep up your pace and continue working on your language knowledge and deepening it. You will quickly find that you have something new to learn every day and that you’re never done.
Although this may sound discouraging at first, it’s also the magical thing about language learning: there are always new things to discover and explore!