Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Classroom language Vs Street slang!

by Mubarak Abdessalami

        Many of us, Teachers of English as a second language, think it is relevant to use as much natural language in our classes as possible so that our students learn the genuine language used in day to day dealings. Yet our prime impediment is to make the difference between teaching accurate language and trying to call it authentic, whereas the language used in the street is far away from being called a language or even a dialect. It is more a moody variable slang than anything else... What we are teaching therefore could be roughly described as a mere virtual language that is generally useful for formal writings...

        Up to now, the language we use in the classroom may seem to be plausibly justified until we come across what is labelled "chat". The chat-written-language via Internet, (which everybody nowadays gets familiar with easily and successfully), suddenly breaks into to mock us and ironically describes us as teachers of archaic "incantatory" language. The language I am applying now or the one we teach may just be useful for those who want to read poetry and old literary books; or some respectful brochures and written press. As far as the language used in verbal or in web chat writing has nothing to do with the very thing we call English. Is anyone of us actually able to confirm if the language we teach is not heading towards decay?!

        This is on one hand, on the other hand what we shall do to overcome the dichotomy between the English we teach and the English our students are exposed to in everyday interactions with the others. My students are taught polite behaviors among which the language expression is one. To ask someone for something, one has to use the most polite expression, namely:

        -"Would you mind being so kind as to post this letter for me?"

Yet in everyday language, people rarely use this turn of phrase. They use," Post this letter for me, please?", instead. In situations as such, students are supposed to be subject to contemptuous and scornful comments when they use the formal polite request. They merely would give the impression to tease or kid the others. This "over polite" request expression is unwanted at all in an environment where all the actions are described using the famous f-word and all the other objects are merely "stuff"! e.g:

        - Why the f.... are ya f..... this stuff in here?!

Despite all this, The neck of the bottle is not really this one.

In a cafe or a snack the waiter usually expects to be addressed this way, for instance: "A cup of coffee, please?" But imagine you asked him / her in this manner: "Would you mind being as kind as to bring me a cup of coffee, please?" The waiter is expected to get dumbfounded because he/she is not used to such polite ways, from normal customers, in asking for a drink or something else. His/her reaction wouldn't surely be friendly for s/he might think you are just offending or insulting him/her. So, What?!

        I assume that each situation requires a certain restriction levels of politeness; otherwise politeness could be interpreted differently and would have an adverse effect. The circumstances, thus, are much more central than the expressions to be used themselves. Sometimes, we seem impolite or even extravagant when we tend to respect the others by showing them some sort of esteem. Language accordingly is useless unless it is employed in terms of circumstances. It is not always successful because the interaction depends on other factors afar from accuracy or politeness. Some people would like you to behave in the approved manner, whereas others may judge your decent manner as a weak trait in you! What we are supposed to do is to give our students the key structure; and it's up to them to forge the appropriate key for each of the doors (situations) they would encounter. Not all the doors have got the same key. The psychological makeup of the language is what teachers couldn't instruct. We afford the material necessary for our students to communicate but it is their sociability which dictates or even enforces the sort of material suitable for each context.

        As a wrapping up, our students have to modulate the language they learn with the specific situations they bump into so as to communicate with the others normally. They have to combine the language they learn with the multitude social forms of contacts. We, teachers, cannot help much with the sort of combinations and perceptive links the students should make in real life. But generally speaking the more we use good accurate English we can make the street a classroom; but if we tried t find a compromise, we'll simply lose and the classroom becomes the street.

The Co-Teacher

Go Home