Theme: Slang, youth culture, informal language, multicultural society
Lexical area: language, song lyrics, young people
Instructions for language assistants in Italics.
This lesson offers a variety of activities based on informal language and modern British slang. Task 1 is a warm up activity that invites students to guess the correct definition of slang and introduces the topic. Task 2 is a matching activity which looks at slang in song lyrics. Task 3 practices the words and expressions from Task 2. In Task 4 the students skim read the text about modern British slang to get a general idea of content. Task 5 helps students with vocabulary from the text before they do the comprehension activities in Task 6. The students complete (and can extend) dialogues in pairs in Task 7 as a further comprehension check and speaking practice. The students have an opportunity to give their opinions in groups in the discussion activity in Task 8.
1. Guess the definition
Ask students to work in pairs to guess the definition of the word slang. Check the answer as a class or students can check the meaning in dictionaries if they are available. Ask students if they know any slang words or expressions in English. If any swear words or inappropriate language is mentioned you could tell students that this lesson is just about the type of slang you can use at school!
Task 1 Guess the definition
Guess the correct definition with a partner.The word slang describes a way of speaking. Do you think slang is:
A)An abbreviation of ‘special language’, originally used by spies?
B)Technical language used by university students?
C)Very informal language, not usually found in a dictionary?
2. Song lyrics
Tell the students that songs often contain slang words and expressions. Ask them to match the examples of song slang with the correct meaning. Have students compare answers in pairs before checking the answers as a class.
1E, 2C, 3F, 4A, 5D, 6B
Task 2 Song lyrics
Song lyrics often contain slang words and expressions. Match the song slang with the correct meaning.
1‘cuz / ‘coz / ‘cause
6 I ain’t
A have got to
B I’m not
C going to
F want to
Do the first ‘translation’ (i.e., write in standard English) as a class. Ask a student to write the answer on the board. Students continue in pairs. Invite different students to write the answers on the board.
1 Yes yes yes
2 I want to hold your hand
3 I have got to go now
4 Because I’m not stupid
5 He’s going to make you cry
Ask students if these words are formal or informal. (very informal)
Ask students if these words are for songs or for writing composition. (songs – usually too informal for a composition)
The site below explains song lyrics – CAREFUL! Some of them are very explicit and might be more suitable for teacher reference rather than for classroom use.
Task 3 Write
‘Translate’ these song lyrics with a partner. Write the words in standard English.
1 Yeah yeah yeah ________________________________________
2 I wanna hold your hand __________________________________
3 I gotta go now _________________________________________
4 Cuz I ain’t stupid ___________________________________________
5 He’s gonna make you cry _________________________________
4. Slang: How do young Brits speak?
Tell the students that they are going to read about British slang. Set a time limit of 3 minutes for students to read and answer the question. Tell students not to worry about new vocabulary now and that you will help them with new words later.
Answer: neither good nor bad (the writer is neutral but informative)
Task 4 Slang: How do young Brits speak?
Read the text very quickly to answer this question:
Does the writer think that slang is good/bad/neither good nor bad?
Language changes all the time. New words and phrases appear and evolve. The words and pronunciations used by young people in the UK can be radically different to those used by adults. Living in a multicultural society has an effect on language, especially on young people, whose friends are often from a mix of backgrounds. TV and music also have a massive impact on the language of the young. Often UK singers will even sing in American accents without realising.
Young Brits use lots of language that you usually can’t find in most dictionaries. These highly informal words and expressions are known as slang. It is not possible to come up with a complete list of modern British slang. By the time the list was completed, it would be out of date. New words come and go like fashions. However, here are a few examples:
* Safe!, Sorted!, Sound!, Cool! or Wicked! mean That’s good or, I understand.
* Instead of using different tag questions like …isn’t it?, …can’t you? or don’t they?, people use innit (e.g., It’s hot here, isn’t it? = It’s hot here, innit!, He can dance really well, can’t he? = He can dance really well, innit! or They always say that, don’t they =They always say that, innit.).
* Instead of saying very, really or completely use well (e.g., I’m well tired or You got it well wrong!).
* Whatever means I don’t care (E.g., A: But the teacher says we can’t leave until we’ve finished. B:Whatever. I’m going).
* He’s fine or He’s fit both mean He’s good looking. Fine and fit can describe a boy or a girl.
* A hoodie is a young person who wears a jacket with a hood (after all, it rains a lot in the UK). It is a negative term and suggests that the young person might be interested in committing a crime.
If some British people use language like this then it’s no surprise that some students say that even after years of studying English they still can’t understand native speakers. But perhaps learners should not worry about communicating with native speakers so much. Research commissioned by the British Council shows that most of the English spoken in the world today is spoken between non-native speakers of the language. In fact, when we think about “International English”, there is no such thing as a native or non-native speaker.
So how important is it to understand these slang words and expressions? If you watch films or TV in English, read magazines in English, chat online in English or are interested in English song lyrics then understanding slang can be very useful. You probably won’t see any slang in your English exam though.
Task 5. Vocabulary
Ask the students to find and underline the words and expressions 1-10 in the text. Point out that looking at the words in context may give clues to their meanings. Students do the matching activity and then compare answers in pairs. Early finishers can use a dictionary to check answers. Check answers as a class. You could then say the words and have students repeat them to practice pronunciation.
Answers: 1G, 2D, 3C, 4J, 5A, 6B, 7H, 8F, 9I, 10E
Task 5 Vocabulary
Here are some words and expressions from the article. Underline the words in the text and then match them with the descriptions.
3 come and go
4 come up with
5 commit a crime
8 native speaker
10 out of date
A do something illegal
C arrive and leave
D education, family and social situation
F a person speaking their first language
G a way of speaking associated with a region or country
6. True or false?
Ask students to read the text in more detail and decide if the statements are true or false. Have students compare answers in pairs before checking answers as a class.
1F (The words and pronunciations used by young people in the UK can be radically different to those used by adults.)
5 F (…tag questions like …isn’t it?, …can’t you? or don’t they?, use innit)
6 F ( Fine and fit can describe a boy or a girl.)
7 F (…..learners should not worry about communicating with native speakers so much.)
9 F (…If you watch films or …..slang can be very useful. You probably won’t see any slang in your English exam though.….)
Task 6 True or false?
Read the text in more detail and decide if these statements are true or false.
1 Young Brits often speak like their parents.
2 TV, music, and friends from different cultural background have an effect on how young people speak.
3 British singers sometimes don’t know that they change their accent when they sing.
4 Modern slang changes very quickly.
5 ‘Innit’ means ‘in a minute’.
6 ‘Fit’ is only used to describe boys.
7 English students should try to speak to native speakers of English as much as possible.
8 More English is spoken by non-native speakers than by native speakers.
9 It is essential to learn some British slang.
Students complete the dialogues in pairs. Check answers by having some pairs read out a mini dialogue each. Ask students to tell you who is talking in the dialogues: friends or family? (suggested answers - a) friends, b) friends- arranging to meet later, c) friends, d) parent and child).Higher level students can chose one dialogue, extend it and then read it out to the class.
Note:This exercise checks comprehension of the text as much as it gives speaking practice. You may need to stress to your students that slang like this is fine in a very informal situation but it might not be appropriate in a formal situation such as a school exam.
1 Wicked, 2 innit, 3 yeah, 4 well, 5 hoodie, 6 whatever
Task 7 Dialogues
Complete the mini dialogues with the slang words in the box.
A: I’ve just passed my exam!
B:1________! Well done!
A: You said at eight,2______?
B:3_______, don’t be late.
A: Did you know Mark’s brother has just cycled around the world.
B: Wow! He must be 4_______ tired.
A: You look like a 5_______with those clothes on. Why don’t you wear something else.
For lower levels you could choose just the first question then write up ways to agree and disagree on the board (ask/prompt the students), e.g., I agree because…, I think…., In my opinion…, I don’t agree because…., I disagree because….Students can then discuss the question in groups of 3 or 4. Now arrange the students into different groups and ask them to discuss the same question with different people.
For higher levels, divide students into groups of 3 or 4 and tell them to appoint a note taker before they discuss the questions. To round up at the end of the discussion ask each note taker to summarize their group’s discussion.
Task 8 Discussion
Discuss these questions:
Some people say that people who use slang are lazy. Do you agree?
Do you have similar slang words and expressions in your language?
How difficult is it to use slang in a foreign language?
Do you need to use slang to communicate with non-native speakers?
When should you not use slang?
Tag questions (isn’t it?, are we?, don’t you? etc) are common in English. Does your language have a similar structure?
If you want to find the meaning of a new word what do you do?
How is your language influenced by other languages?
You can read more about how British people speak here
You can read more about how British people speak here
This site is a lesson about music
This site is a lesson about Brits and languages
This is an article about using songs in class to develop pronunciation
Find almost any song you want here. CAREFUL! Check suitability of music videos for classroom viewing.
By Sally Trowbridge