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November 05, 2013

Learners demand slang; teachers try to keep up

A radio station website has published an article on how immigrants are redefining 'American' English in Southern California.

Jiu Hua Zhang stands in front of her classmates reading from a sheet of paper. She’s practiced the lines over and over under her breath.

“You can count on one thing,” she said, forming each word carefully. “If a critic thinks a movie is a bomb, it’ll be a smash hit.”

A movie could be a bomb or a smash hit. Not to mention da bomb.

These are the kind of things Zhang wants to know. The 23-year-old has been studying English in her home country of China since middle school. She’s among thousands of students who come to the United States with hopes of picking up what they can’t get back home: the idioms, the catchphrases – the slang.

“My conversation is more academic, or more like an essay,” Zhang said. “I need to be more, like, American.”

She enrolled six months ago in UCLA Extension's American Language Center, one of multiple schools throughout California offering “street talk” classes. Because of slang’s constant evolution, there aren’t many teaching materials devoted to the subject. Texts get dated faster than you can say YOLO.

So teachers are often left to find their own method of teaching American lingo, in ways creative and resourceful.

Read the full post on KPCC, Southern California Public Radio.

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