SLANG: The real foreign language

Modified on by Amanda Moritz-Saladino

Slang, The real foreign language

Let’s admit it, learning slang in any language is fun.  There’s something “exclusive”-feeling about being let in on the secret vocabulary that is left out of your traditional textbooks, dictionaries, and formal class activities.  And because slang is used universally by native speakers, if you do not use it or understand it, you’ll never truly be able to connect with natives.

Speaking slang will help you feel more comfortable speaking, plus it is just interesting. Slang is not something that can be translated directly, and may take some getting used to, but its a lot of fun once you master it. For instance, in French, dans les vignes du Seigneur is a slang term for being drunk, but translated directly it means “in the veins of the Lord”. Slang is strange, but needed if you want to become fluent in a language. The language you learn in cafés doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it will let you understand the culture that you in.

How to Learn Slang in a Foreign Language

  1. Make friends with the natives. This is the best way to learn the terms that are being used by everyday people on the street. It’ll also help boost your language learning overall. Just be careful — as a new learner, it might be better to ask for the meanings rather than guessing and making some embarrassing mistakes!
  2. Watch movies with subtitles. Newer films will give you a chance to catch up on the latest slang, and older films will fill you in on the classics. Beware when watching older films: you might end up with a completely outdated slang vocabulary!
  3. Get a slang dictionary. Although these often suck, they can help, and allow you to study and learn at your own pace. This is a good supplement to the other options on this list.
  4. Share your new slang words with other learners on Brainscape. One of the best ways to master any part of a language — including slang — is to share what you know with others. Let us know your favorite slang terms in the comments (but keep it family-friendly if you can)!
  5. Have fun with it!

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Dan 10 years ago

I'm fascinated by slang -- every now and then I'll use a phrase, and it'll strike me how incomprehensible it must be to someone who has learned (or is still learning) English as a second language. While studying Spanish, my roommate was fond of the phrase "No entiendo ni papa." He told me it means, idiomatically, "I have no idea," but a transliteration renders it "I don't even understand a potato." (At least, I'm pretty sure that's right.) So I can follow the meaning, generally, but I can't imagine how the saying came into being.

Amanda Moritz 10 years ago

I, too, love to hear the backstories for these phrases...language in general!

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