[ Pedagogical Issues | Technical Issues ]
I. Pedagogical Issues - To Teachers and Students
So, you want to learn or teach idioms or slang. Before you begin, let me explain some important points about this type of language.
First of all, let us define idioms and slang, and although these words are often used interchangeably, they are slightly different. An idiom is an expression made up of one or more words that has a different meaning than the literal translation of the words. For example, the expression, keep your nose clean, does not really mean to go into the bathroom and clean your nose with soap and water; rather it means to stay out of trouble. Slang expressions, on the other hand, are similar to idioms, but the words are often very informal and regional in nature (i.e., used only in specific geographic locations). This Website tries to use the most common expressions of both types and avoids expressions that do not have wide usage.
Learning idiomatic expressions and slang (and using them correctly) involves more than just memorizing words. Along with the learning of new expressions also comes the responsibility of using them in appropriate situations. On the second day of one of my classes, a female student said to me, "Hey, dude. What's up?" After noticing my surprise, she asked me if she had said anything wrong. "All my friends say it, so it's okay, right?" As in this case, the student had failed to realize that there are different registers, or levels of formality and usage, that dictate how language is used.
For that very reason, many formal language textbooks avoid introducing slang altogether. Yet, that still leaves students without a knowledge of expressions they will encounter often in daily conversation.
Furthermore, asking a native speaker if an idiomatic expression or slang is okay to use can be like wading through a mine field: an "appropriate" expression for one person might be very offensive to another. Thus, in order to understand these complexities, students must already have reached a certain level of proficiency to skillfully handle slang, and therefore, this site is geared to students from a low-intermediate to advanced level.
This Website was mainly designed for self-access learning where each listening activity is completely independent from the next one. In this way, students can focus their study on the particular topics with having to do other units as a prerequisite. However, the characters who appear from activity to activity are the same, and thus, learners can become more familiar with the lives of these people.
At the same time, other teachers might want to use the online content as a sources to teach or supplement their classroom curriculum. Thus, I designed the content to focus on common themes that could be blended into a general conversational class.
Each unit is made of of five parts, progressing from structured activities to eventually more extemporaneous speech. Each activity requires learners to recycle the idioms over and over again for better comprehension and retention. In addition, the same main characters are a part of each recording, so you become very acquainted them and their personalities (Read more HERE). Here are some of the main components of each activity:
- Warming Up:
A question or statement to get you to share your ideas based on your background knowledge of the topic and language structures
- Relaxed Speech
A short tip on understand reduced speech. Native speakers often reduce or contract their their speech in quick or informal situations. Although using such speech isn't appropriate in all situations, learning to recognize it is critical in improving listening comprehension skills.
- Listening in Context
A conversation using the target slang and expressions in context with key vocabulary explained.
- Catching the Gist
Multiple-choice questions to check understanding of the expressions used in the conversation
- Filling in the Meaning
A short dictation exercise based on an interview, helping students focus on accuracy and spelling
- Retelling the Story
Students retell one or both of the recordings they hear in their own words, focusing on specific use of the key expressions
- Expanding Your Learning
Activities for students to practice using the slang they have learned in more extemporaneous (or unrehearsed) situations
Because visitors to this site come from over 100 countries around the world, I designed the site with many different users in mind. First of all, although high-speed connections are becoming more and more available, many people are still using slower, dial-up connections at home. Thus, all of the pages and audio files on this site have been prepared to accommodate
these situations, and to simulate these conditions, I use a dial-up connection to test the site.
Second, I have prepared the media files in Windows Media format (.wma), a leading standard in digital audio. The Windows Media Player is already part of the Windows operating system, and thus, does not need to be downloaded to use this site. However, you might want to upgrade your player to version 10.0+ to take advantage of the Play Speed Settings that allow you to slow down or speed up the playback of audio on this site. You can adjust these settings through the menus: VIEW >>> ENHANCEMENTS >>> SPEED CONTROL SETTINGS.
I have also prepared the audio so it can almost all computers, Mac and PC, as well as portable media devices and smart phones.
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