As a teacher, I really didn’t follow the standard “levels” of fluency – all those test numbers or beginner – intermediate – advanced. No, I had my own standards, my own way of placing this bar.
For me, there were only 3 levels or abilities.
1. able to answer all the general questions and maintain small talk.
2. able to order pizza over the telephone in English (and get the pizza).
3. able to cuss and swear and make the other person feel it.
Yes, swearing and insulting are the highest art of our language. Full of nuance, subtlety and at the same time – force. Full of paralinguistic features, body and eye language. If you can swear like an Englishman, you could feel at home with the language.
Swearing/cursing/insulting are important for our students. They are important subjects. Swearing (and politeness) are the core of discourse analysis and are very serious subjects in their own right. Our students need to know about these things…
Students love any lesson about insulting and swearing. They were always my favorites, along with bragging. A knock ‘em down good time. I think the reason was that it brought us together – we were in “taboo” territory, English language or not. Also, and most importantly, we were engaging the ego. I think the ego is something that is powerful when it comes to language. It is beyond personalization but rather the commitment body, tongue and soul, of the student to the language produced. That’s why all language should start with ME and all language should end with the art of belittlement.
It isn’t easy to do a lesson on swearing. Karenne has a nice blog post about Eminem and challenging students with this type of “dirty” content. A good read. Myself, I feel we teachers have to respect our audience but can stretch things. So it all depends what you can get away with – but be cautious and edit out any of the hard core stuff. You’ll be surprised at how much your students do understand! And they might just tell someone, who will tell someone and then you’ll be out on the street, just another language teacher has been…. but at least you’ll be able to tell them to ……
But if you can, go for it. These examples are stellar. The one above – less dirty, the one to end, full of the more powerful dirty stuff.
To end, if you can get away with it, give your students some practice swearing. It will even be a good way for them to let off steam! There is nothing like swearing in a second language (sex aside)…..