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Slang & Texting Lingo with Chinese International Students

phone-918633_960_720by Stephanie N. Brown, NNETESOL Board Member

Over the past few weeks, I have been working with a group of Chinese International students as they prepare for their first semester studying at a U.S. University. The focus of this program is to support students with English language, academic and social skills to prepare them to be successful.

While I have been working with students on their academic skills, I noticed that they were lacking informal language necessary to communicate with their native-English classmates. With this information in mind I created multiple activities to help students learn, listen and use American slang and texting lingo/acronyms.

My students wanted to learn specific regional slang that their classmates will be using. So, I started listening to the conversations around me for about a week. I combined these observations with online research and compiled a list of slang used in this region. This corpus of slang and informal language really helped to shape the classroom with authentic information. We use this data in a variety of different ways: creating dialogues, acting out, problem-solving college issues using slang/informal language, and gap-fills. Students shared that they felt more confident in their ability to communicate with their future classmates.

We did something similar with texting lingo/acronyms. I noticed students looked up “HW,” when I had written the homework on the board. I thought this was another area to focus on to help build students communicative competence and self confidence. I gathered texting slag from friends, family and the internet. I compiled a list of about 20-30 texting acronyms. We used these in class to practice sending text/Facebook messages to future classmates. I also showed students authentic texts that I have sent or received using slang. The class had to decode the general meaning in each text message.

The slang and texting lingo/acronyms have helped my students in many ways. This was a great opportunity to speak and work with others in class. Students seemed very confident and eager to use the language. As students left class for the day, I overheard them say “BTW” and “TTYL.” This also helped because they had to use the language they knew and decode between academic and social language. We practiced note taking, projecting our voices in class, and other related topics. Overall, it was a great success!

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