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How To Learn English Slang

A huge part of English cannot be learned in textbooks. That part is slang. What do I mean by slang? I mean abbreviations; I mean colloquial expressions. These are the words such as “cool”. At one time “cool” was simply another word for “cold”. Now “cool” describes something that is in fashion, something that everyone likes. If you want to be able to successfully navigate the English language, if you want to be “fluent” in English, you will need to do your utmost to learn these commonly used expressions.

In order to begin learning slang, you could begin looking at sites like , which are essentially dictionaries filled with slang words and phrases. But this immediately presents a problem. For example, in the first page listed, they have the supposed slang expression “Your ideas about politics are all wet”. I have never heard this expression before, and I imagine if I heard a non-native speaker say it, I would feel uncomfortable. English slang is constantly changing, and what is deemed “appropriate” English slang differs greatly depending upon your social circles. In order to effectively learn English Slang, here are my personal recommendations.

  • Pay attention to your friends- Listen very carefully to how your friends speak in more casual situations. It goes without saying, but if they ever say a word you are entirely unfamiliar with, don’t hesitate to ask them. Also, be sure to test any English slang phrases with your friends before you use them in more serious situations.

  • Watch television- Watching television in the appropriate language can be very helpful. I would recommend watching any of the following shows to increase your understanding of English Slang: The Simpsons, South Park, of Family Guy. All three are animated comedies, and all three have significantly influenced English slang. As a warning, all of these shows have (very) mature content.

  • Use a language partner- of course, I recommend using LRNGO or similar sites. Find a language partner willing to practice English slang with you; having a designated time and place to have serious practice with these colloquial expressions will be very beneficial.

  • Use - By far the most complete collection of slang expressions anywhere on the web. This is the place to go if you ever need to know the meaning of certain slang words. As a warning, Urban Dictionary has some extremely mature content.

  • Use Social Media sites- Facebook; Twitter; Reddit; if you spend quality time on any of these social media sites, you will quickly- and I mean quickly- become acclimated to all of the latest slang expressions. I know a few people who claim interacting with people on Facebook was the single most helpful thing they did to learn English slang.

  • Read modern books- Reading any of the bestselling books of the past few years will really help you understand how people use phrases. I would actually recommend reading books to understand colloquial expressions and slang over watching television. Television moves fast; you will most likely miss most of the important phrases. Books, on the other hand, only move as fast as you want them to. For example, you can spend as much time as you need looking words up in dictionaries.

  • Photo Credit: Neeraj Kumar
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