miércoles, 3 de noviembre de 2010

Something to say about: Dirty language

I was a student back on those days, but I still remember a friend of mine who once, after the lesson had finished, approached the teacher and asked: “What´s fakinaso, teacher? The lady, an honorable matron in her 60s, turned her reddened face away saying, between clenched teeth: “I don´t know, I don´t know, ask Mr. Smith, go.” She flew out of the classroom before my friend could begin to explain what he already knew but wanted to “confirm.” She could not see his grin either, better for him, but not so good for us all who saw the scene wondering what everything was about.
Who hasn´t ever used swearing? It´s part of the language, but not part of the curriculum; however, that type of language is there, and will always be, for sure. Don´t take me wrong, I´m not proposing a change in syllabus design and asking for the inclusion of dirty language, no. I´m only saying that it exists and… well, what can we do about it? Surely, my old teacher shouldn´t have run away from the problem, hiding it doesn´t make I disappear, does it?
I found the following article in the Oxford University English Language Teaching Global Blog: “Dirty words in the language classroom.”

I think it is good “food for thought.”
As always, comments are welcome.

Cesar Klauer

5 comentarios:

AmigoBryan dijo...


Part 1/3

This is of great interest to me, both from a personal aspect of learning Spanish, but also with regard to learning fluency in English beyond the classroom. The YT Video is one that I selected for some of my construction and engineering students who would work with native-speaker workers and not English language teachers. If you do not publish this, OR, if you edit it, I will not be offended. :)

Not only are "dirty words" part of Spoken English, but the eumphemisms we generally use in more polite Spoken English also exist in common use. Fluency involves not only speaking and understanding "Written English" (which I derisively call "book English") but also eumphemisms such as "gosh", "golly", and "goodness me". One can learn them mechanically, but of course it's important to know what they replace, "God!" or even "Goddamn!". And then, it is true, when you hear shockingly strong language, how do you respond in a conversation? Do you not show any response, as "a deer caught in the headlights"? Or do you react appropriately for the context you are in? That is a challenge of fluency that most 2nd language learners are not prepared for in school. They often learn how to respond only after several embarrassing incidents by asking their peers, since swearing or using suggestive language is generally part of their native fluency (however, most are not used to teaching a newbie their "dirty language"). This is a serious problem for those people who have to "fit in successfully with native speakers" in non-academic settings.

One of my disappointments in learning another language, "Spanish" is that, while grammar and vocabulary was taught mechanically, the actual spoken language was really not taught except in workbook phrases. Even, as in your example, any kind of slang or common references were avoided, especially by some teachers in a mixed-gender setting. It really put me at a disadvantage when I heard friends and their family members at home, in common conversation in bars, swearing at other drivers in traffic, and most importantly, using suggestive language in making jokes. I was lost, and I think I looked a bit like a "fish out of water", staring emptily when I should have laughed uncontrollably at what really was a very good joke.

Part 2 Continues...

AmigoBryan dijo...
Este comentario ha sido eliminado por el autor.
AmigoBryan dijo...

Part 2/3

So in the case of some of my male students who will have to work closely with native speakers in construction and engineering settings (both worksite and social), I felt obligated to help them recognize "swear words" as well as the many euphemisms that their native-speaker colleagues were sure to use! As well, I felt obligated to help them swear correctly where appropriate, to use the correct euphemisms where appropriate and not to mix contexts (oil drill head operators vs. secretary in an oil exploration office). Of course, this aspect of English was contextualized properly, and it was kept to a minimum, but the "fellers" learned to hold their own in any on-site conversation, I would hope.

Now, I hesitate to post this link. It is not meant to be offensive. It is a YouTube explanation from two variations/contexts of English. The first is an academic explanation. The second is from the mouth of a real person, using language that is not, let's say, appropriate, for an academic setting. But as the first voice warns, there is bad language, and as he says, "there is some strong language here, there is a reason for it." But it should clarify what I carefully taught my students to recognize, and to reproduce when and where appropriate, and how to mitigate that language when and where appropriate.

Because, if a worker must speak the English of the team around him/her, and instead he only uses plain schoolroom language, he will be dismissed as a "sissy" or worse. ;0)

With all consideration, therefore, here is the link for:

BP Fails Booming School 101 Gulf Oil Spill.wmv (17 May, 2010)

(WARNING, if you are offended or shocked by EXTREMELY strong language, do not view this example. The real extreme language starts at 1:50, spoken, as it happens, by a woman. There, I told you.)

Part 3 continues

AmigoBryan dijo...

Part 3/3

But to answer your question about curriculum changes and so on: When we are preparing students to become fluent, do we teach them how to argue properly? I would say not really. Do we teach them how to get INTO and OUT OF arguments? Again, I would say not truly. Do we teach them how to tell jokes? I'm really not sure, but it was not taught to me, so I presume that most curriculums do not include these strategies. Especially, there are specific phrases, jargon and vocabulary of arguments, jokes, and social interaction that require strong, mitigated or euphemistic language. Where, to be successful, are the students going to learn to be successfully fluent, if not in the back alley behind the school, where the WiFi connection still works? :)

Urban Dictionary (English):

Now, before I close, we all know that there are many stakeholders to language instruction, not least of all our employers, who see their clients (and their clients' parents) as the most important stakeholder, and would not want to jeopardize their financial relationship. It's obvious what you can and can't do in such situations. Obtain a signed release form for a "Real World English Conversation" course? Separate males and females?

Unless I am wrong, preparing people to be successful in a second language requires more than schoolroom-level language "book English". It's a tough world out there.

(NOTE: The opinions or views expressed by the speaker in the video are not necessarily the views of Cesar Klauer or AmigoBryan)

P.S. "Fakinaso" or "fokinaso"?

End 3/3

Cesar Klauer dijo...

Thanks AmigoBryan, your post is really interesting, it gives a lot to think about.
And "fakinaso" is the way my friend pronounced the two words together; I can´t use symbols here, but I guess the "question" was quite clear to everyone, wasn´t it?
Thans again and keep posting comments!.