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HANOI NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION

FACULTY OF ENGLISH

STUDENT RESEARCH PAPER

REVIEW OF AMERICAN SLANG AND SOME


SUGGESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE
THE ENGLISH LEARNERS ABILITY OF
LISTENING ABOUT SLANG IN THE FACULTY
OF ENGLISH-HNUE

STUDENT

: QUACH HAI YEN

CLASS

: K60C

HANOI, 4/2012

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
I.1. Background to the study.....2
I.2. Aims of the study....3
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW
II.1. Some thoughts on slang.3
II.2. The classification of slang.4
II.2.1. Slang vs. Jargon...4
II.2.2. Slang vs. Argot4
II.2.3. Slang vs. Dialect..5
II.2.4. Slang vs. Colloquial language.............5
II.3. Slang word formation5
III.3.1. Compounding.5
III.3.2. Clipping..6
III.3.3. Blending.6
CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY
III.1. Subjects of the study....7
III.2. Data collection instruments..7
III.3. Data collection procedures...8
CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS
IV.1. Findings and discussions..8
IV.2. Implications for teaching and learning of slang...9
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION.10
REFERENCES...11
APPENDIX.12

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
I.1. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
According to the definition of the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary
(7th edition, 2005), slang is usually used as colloquial words and phrase. It
cannot be regarded as Standard-English, thus this shows that, slang is
Nonstandard-English. However, slang is very popular in the Englishspeaking countries nowadays. Slang is spoken by people in daily speech,
and even magazine and literary works may find a large number of them.
With the development of the society, slang is widely used by more and more
people, especially in America. It is accepted by both upper-class and lowerclass, and especially the college students who tend to use up-to-date words
that form a kind of characteristic style of themselves. Slang plays an
important part in American English. It is reported that slang accounts for one
of the tenth of American average vocabulary.
Peoples attitude toward slang varies from person to person. Some think
that slang cannot be used on the formal occasion, for it is spoken by the
illiterate people only and the slang terms are so coarse. Some even think that
slang is the filthy language, and advocate abandoning using it. However,
others hold the opposite idea. They think that slang plays an important role
in English language, because of its fresh, lifelike, humor and adequate
expressions. One must admit the undeniable fact that slang is spoken by
more and more people.
In modern times, if one is not familiar with American slang he or she could
not capture the slang expressions in the movie and common fictions and one
would make mistakes when they are listening and talking with the
Americans. Therefore, one should bear in mind that it is very important to
study a language in a socio- cultural context; the language has existed in
close contact with culture. Americans speak colorful, idiomatic English that
may have little resemblance to the language that students studied in school.
Even a native English speaker might be confused by the combination of
slang that characterizes American conversation. So it is very important to
capture the American slang expression in order to know others correctly.
I.2. AIMS OF THE STUDY
English learners around the world have a lot of difficulties in listening
exercises like dialect, reduced forms of words, academic or business issues,
but perhaps the most confusing and complicated problem is listening to
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slang and figure out its meaning. So why do English learners find it
unmanageable when they come across a slang in a whole sentence?
As we know slang is defined both as a group-related variety and as an
informal vocabulary of more general use. It is characterized by many extragrammatical formations which distinguish it from standard- English, but also
by formations which conform to regular patterns. Besides, it is viewed as a
complex lexical system on account of the difficulty it entails in cognitive
processing and meaning disambiguation. Slang commonly overlaps with
other non-standard varieties such as cant, jargon, dialect, or even with bad
language. All of these are unfamiliar to English learners around the world
because slang is not directly taught in their learning programs but somehow
it still appears in the tests, even though its appearance is rare.
Therefore, the aim of this research is to improve the English learners
ability of listening about slang and from that they will gradually gain their
knowledge about it and feel confident whenever they come across a slang
word. In the rest of the research we will discuss about the classification of
slang, slang word-formation, the methodology then the discussions of the
findings of the study.
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW
II.1. SOME THOUGHTS ON SLANG
Slang
is
the
poetry
-S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Action, 1941

of

everyday

life.

I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips
and
give
them
to
you
separate.
-George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1871
Slang is language which takes off its coat, spits on its hands -- and goes
to
work.
-Carl Sandburg (as quoted in Crystal 182)
Slang is humanity's
-John Algeo, University of Georgia professor

first

play

toy.

Slang, at its worst, it is stupidly coarse and provocative. At its best, it


makes
standard
English
seem
pallid.
-J. E. Lighter, chief editor of Random House Historical Dictionary of
American Slang
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II.2. THE CLASSIFICATION OF SLANG


II.2.1. Slang vs. Jargon
Jargon is terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a
specific activity, profession, group, or event. Jargon refers to a set of terms,
idioms, and concepts which are shared by people with a similar interest. In
other words, the term covers the language used by people who work in a
particular area or who have a common interest. As an example, the words
RAM, bit, byte, CPU, and hexadecimal are jargon terms related to
computing, or end zone, goal line hand-off, kickoff, loose ball or offside are
examples of Football jargon.
Much like slang, jargon can develop as a kind of short-hand, to express
ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group, though it
can also be developed deliberately using chosen terms. But slang differs
from jargon in its lack of prestige and pretentiousness. The truth is that slang
terminology is more popular and familiar than the technical jargon of
business, football, law, science, etc.
II.2.2. Slang vs. Argot
Argot or cant is a specialized vocabulary, set of idioms or a secret language
used by a particular social class or group- especially one that functions
outside the law- to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations.
Still, argot is not the same as slang. Slang is more widespread than argot,
and it tends to spread quickly and metamorphose as it is used.
II.2.3 Slang vs. Dialect
Dialect is a variety of a language that is distinguished from other varieties
of the same language by features of phonology, grammar, and vocabulary,
and by its use by a group of speakers who are set off from others
geographically or socially. Therefore, slang is not geographically restricted
like dialect. Despite its local peculiarities, slang is not necessary associated
with one region or social class. Some slang words are of more general use or
they happen to be understood by practically anyone within the language
community. For instance, this is the case with word like nerd (an
insignificant or socially inept person) or the word crackers (insane, crazy),

although they may not be accepted as proper American English (or British
English) words.
II.2.4 Slang vs. Colloquial language
Colloquial language, especially in philosophy of language, is natural
language which, among other properties, uses colloquialisms. Slang is
largely colloquial. It belongs to the spoken part of language and is rarely
written except in the direct quotation of speech. But not all colloquial words
or expressions are slang. For example, shut up (which means be quiet or talk
no more) is often used in dialogue and it is not slang. Likewise, not all
words with informal connotations are necessary slang such as limo for
limousine,
leak for unauthorized disclosure, decaf for decaffeinated coffee or warm- up
for clothing worn to keep the muscles warm before or during exercise.
II.3. SLANG WORD-FORMATION
We will discuss some main word-formations of slang that are
II.3.1. Compounding
Compounds can be created from individual words of various parts of
speech. Probably the most common type is NOUN + NOUN pattern:
hometown, boyfriend, music box, tennis court, etc. Other popular and
ordinary parts are ADJECTIVE +NOUN pattern: short story, heavy water,
heavy traffic, big toe, etc, and NOUN + VERB pattern: placekick, home run,
baby- sit, clockwork or heart attack, etc.
The ordinary processes of compounding are a major source of new words
in slang. The WORD + WORD structure for many slang items is obvious
and the meaning can be easily derived from the parts: dough- brain
someone who acts stupidly or as if not thinking, all-nighter a session of
studying or writing that lasts all night or do- right a helpful deed.
A very large number of verbs in slang are formed by the addition of a short
and invariant word like out, on, up or off to a word of any part of speech:
harsh on criticize, mommy up love, hug, comfort, blow off miss class,
ignore responsibility, beam out daydream, blow out shock, embarrass,
bomb out fail, perform poorly, check out look at, scrutinize, chill out
relax, calm down, burn out become mentally or physically exhausted,

jell out relax by doing nothing, lay out sunbathe, rag out become
tired, rock out play music loudly, tang out abandon, put an end to,
z-out go to sleep, phase out become unaware, as if asleep, etc.
II.3.2. Clipping
The most frequent pattern of clipping is the loss of sounds from the ends of
words. The most common pattern is back-clipping, in which the beginning
of a base lexeme is retained (lab from laboratory, exam from examination,
doc from doctor, pop from popular music, zoo from zoological garden).
Other patterns are fore-clipping, in which the final part of the word is
retained (phone from telephone, chute from parachute, pike from turnpike,
gator from alligator), middle clipping in which the middle part of the word
is retained (flu from influenza, tec from detective), and complex clipping or
clipped compounds in which one part of the original compound most often
remains intact (cablegram from cable telegram, op art from optical art, orgman from organization man).
Clipping is also common in slang. They are primarily shortenings of nouns
and adjectives: coke from cocaine, cred from credit/credibility, crim from
criminal, fave from favorite, hyper from hyperactive, bro from brother, ped
from pedestrian, rehab from rehabilitation, skell from skeleton, scally from
scallywag, etc.
II.3.3. Blending
Blending is a combination of shortening and compounding, the process of
blending puts together pieces of words and their meanings. Thus brunch is
formed from breakfast and lunch and means a meal that combines breakfast
and lunch.
Blending slang though is not much but they are still popular in used: buel
( body + fuel) to eat voraciously, droned (drunk + stoned) unaware
because of alcohol or drugs, froyo( frozen yogurt), polislide (political
science + slide) easy political science course, etc.

CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY


III.1. SUBJECTS OF THE STUDY
From the beginning of the research, I have been trying to make an asspecific-as possible review of slang, which is a new and interesting subject
in learning English. Consequently, I have gathered and clarified the
materials and information from different sources in order for readers can
have the general knowledge of what slang is, how slang is classified, and
what they are like, etc. The subjects of my study are the sophomores-with a
total up to 80 people- who are studying in Faculty of English, HNUE. They
have a little knowledge of American slang and also an unambiguous
conception of this matter. Hence, I consider them the useful as well as the
best subjects for me to do my small research on American slang and how to
improve the English learners ability of listening about slang in the Faculty
of English.
III.2. DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENTS
To attain my aim in collecting data, I carried out a survey including 8
questions to find out the knowledge and understanding of American slang of
the sophomores in the Faculty of English as well as their opinions or
suggestions about how to improve the English learners ability of listening
about slang. I find questionnaire the most useful and non-time consuming
tool collect data from such a huge group of people. In the questionnaire, first
4 questions are designed to find out how students can distinguish slang
words from normal words. The next 2 questions are designed for researcher
to know how students can figure out the meanings of slang when they come
across sentences consist of slang. The next question is for researcher to
know by which factors students can figure the meaning of slang. The last
question is to ask students suggestions about how to improve English
learners ability of slang listening.
III.3. DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES
The total number of surveys I collected from sophomores in Faculty of
English was 65 surveys. I would very highly appreciated if the freshmen, the
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juniors and the seniors could help me with their precious opinions or
suggestions to do the survey, but while I was carrying out this survey, the
freshmen were on their way to start their new studying environment so
maybe their understanding was still limited, and both the juniors and the
seniors were at their practical teaching in some high schools where were far
away from our university so I can only deliver the survey to the sophomores.
With their enthusiasm, I hope that I can achieve my goal for this research.
CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS
IV.1. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS

Elements

Total
(65)

Percentage
(%)

Distinguish slang from normal words.

14

21.5%

Figure out the meaning of slang in


sentences provided.

35

53.8%

18

27.6%

Have any suggestion to improve the


English learners ability of listening
about slang.

As what can be seen from the survey, there were only 14 (about 21.5%) over
65 subjects can exactly identify slang from normal words. Furthermore,
there were 35 out of 65 subjects (about 53.8%) could figure out the meaning
of slang in the sentences provided. About 40% of subjects can figure out the
meaning of slang through observing context, 20% of subjects can figure out
the meaning of slang through structural clues, it is similarly with 20%
through list or series and 10% through contrast. Besides, there were only 18
over 65 subjects give their suggestions about improving ability of slang
listening.

Slang has just been introduced to the sophomores in the Faculty of English
through the type of reduced forms of words like gotta (get to), wanna (want
to) or gonna (going to), etc, in the textbook of Interactions 2 which we are
studying. From the consequence of my survey, there are some reasons which
explain why my subjects feel confused and hard whenever they hear about
slang all of a sudden. Firstly, reduction is only a very small portion of this
book and it is also taught in an entirely short period of time at class.
Therefore, students are unable to have a wide knowledge of slang. Secondly,
the form of slang is a difficult matter to students on account of its strangely
visual aspect. Finally, slang is not straightly mentioned in the textbook. It
only presents a glance at reductions which included in slang and it also does
not clear state about the definition of slang together with its form. In brief,
for these very reasons students have little perceptivity and understanding of
slang as well as a lot of them find it inconceivable to learn. And these
findings lead to some implications for teaching and learning slang in the
Faculty for students can better their listening ability so that they can feel
sell-confident when listening to slang as well as the native speaker.
IV.2. IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING OF
SLANG
IV.2.1. FOR TEACHING
2.1.1. Introducing a few short slang lessons at every class in a short period
of time for students can have a basic knowledge of slang.
2.1.2. Identifying the reduced forms in general and slang in particular
2.1.3. Interactions with students during the lesson.
2.1.4. Giving weekly slang exercises to students so that they can practice
more at home.
IV.2.2. FOR LEARNING
2.2.1. Students should learn by heart some basic forms of slang for native
speakers often use slang a lot when making conversations.

2.2.2. Besides being taught at class, students need to provide reasonable time
for self-studying at home. Since the English language contains a rich amount
of slang words and phrases, what they learn at school is never enough.
2.2.3. Students should be aware that there is a large volume of slang they
encounters through the media such as television, film and press, which
invariably increase their references points so besides self-studying from
materials given by teacher, students should learn more about slang by
watching these materials from abroad sources.
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION
Although I have tried my best to carry out my research, I realize that there
are still some limitations in this research because of the shortage of materials
and information and the time constrains.
+ The Internet is my primary source for gathering materials for slang is still
a new matter in listening skill so it will not have enough logical information
for the research.
+ For I only base on students point of view, not any teachers opinions,
some of my traits in this research may not make readers content with it.
In a nutshell, this research mentions a review of slang, to be more specific it
shows readers a glimpse into slangs definition together with its
classifications and word-formations. Besides introducing slang to readers,
this research also discusses about some implications for slang teaching and
learning in the Faculty of English, HNUE. I hope that when readersespecially students- finish reading this research paper they will have a new
thought and perception of slang learning as well as they will realize the
importance of slang when making conversations with native speakers. In my
last speech, I hope that I have made readers somehow feel satisfied with my
research paper even though it has some mistakes and limitations and from
that I express my desire to carry out another further research with more
original and plenteous ideas to solve the limitations of this paper as well as
providing readers more useful information and knowledge.

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REFERENCES
ESL Slang page from http://www.eslcafe.com/slang/
Example of Jargon words from
http://www.businesstune-ups.com/Examples-Of-Jargon.html
Reduced
form,
Karens
Linguistic
issues
http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/ReducedForms.html

from

Slang- Wikipedia from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slang


Standard
VS
Slang
Lesson
Plan
from
http://myenglishpages.com/blog/standard-slang-lessonplan-3/
Teaching
Reduced
Form
from
http://www2.gol.com/users/norris/articles/reduced3.html
What
you
gain
by
using
slang
from
http://www.swd.de/products/datasheets/slang_en.html
What is Argot?
argot.htm

from

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-

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APPENDIX

SLANG SURVEY
Choose the best answer for each following question about slang:
Which is slang in these words?
1. A. Home run

B. Heavy water

C. Do- right

D. Daydream

2. A. Placekick

B. All-nighter

C. Baby-sit

D. Hometown

C. Org-man

D. Lab

Which is NOT slang in these words?


3. A. Blow off
4. A. Bro

B. Chill out
B. Brunch

C. Buel

D. Hommie

Read these sentences and figure out the meaning of slang provided:
5. Yo, hommie. Dis paper hella full of biggie words I dunt catch
What is the meaning of hella here?
A. Many
B. Verb to be
C. Very, extremely

D. Have

6. I have run out of bread. Can you lend me so that I can afford today?
What is the meaning of bread here?
A. Food
B. Drink
C. Cake

D. Money

7. By which factors can you figure out the meaning of slang?

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A. Context

B. Structural clues

C. List or series

D. Contrast

8. Do you have any suggestion to improve the English learners


ability
of
listening
about
slang?

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