The Importance of Mastering American Slang

The Importance of Mastering American Slang

What’s up?!

Well, a lot of things. Stars. Ceilings. Trees. But you know as well as I that I’m asking about your life. What is happening and how you are handling it? That’s the sly, simple, spacious impact of slang in our culture today. We hardly recognize when we slip into such commonly used colloquialisms.

Which is precisely why it’s so important for us to have a good mastery of American slang, especially if we’re attempting to teach non-English speakers the nuances of our confounding language. Thankfully, good people have done the hard yards of compiling the words you need to know.

I’m just here to tell you why you need to know them.


For Building Relationships

Slang, by its nature, is informal. You wouldn’t typically use it on your scholarly essays and tests because those are assessing your grasp of “proper” or formal English. You may as well take your tea and crumpets along.

But once you leave Downton Abbey and step out onto the streets, slang is not only commonplace, but highly relatable. It is the people’s language of choice. It is metaphor and irony and slant rhymes. And mastering slang will help connect you with others via ease of conversation and humor.

I doubt even the most prestigious positions of our society stay posted in proper English all the time. There are moments we need to relax and speak freely. Especially around friends and family. It would be almost improper to speak only proper English when the setting is informal. Slang is a natural and needed element of our culture. And we should endeavor to express ourselves in relatable terms. Otherwise, we’ll isolate ourselves in a New York minute.

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Comedians are the absolute best at it. They manipulate and expose the idiosyncrasies and indulgences of our slang to make others laugh. It’s funny, if you get the joke. However, some command of those idiosyncrasies is required. Humor piggybacks on our mastery of slang. And humor is a potent fragrance of positive change.

Humor connects. Humor brings us together. Humor unites us under a flag of humanity.

But in order for it to do so, we first must know why we’re laughing.

Or why everyone else is.

For Communicating Effectively

Every so often I have a chance to do some public speaking. I’ve done it enough now to enjoy it. But that’s after many years of practice. I’ve learned to enunciate, to project, and to vary tone and pitch, which has all helped on the speaking side of things.

The real challenge is knowing what to say. What stories go where? What images resonate with the theme? Where does this quote fit? And when does my use of slang have a weightier impact than something more formal?

Slang is on the cutting edge of trends and social movements. It fills our movies and music. It is everywhere. And while you can get your point across sufficiently enough using the words you know, you can start a revolution using words that connect.

Such is the power of American slang in our world today.

With the ability for so many to have a voice through the wonders of the internet, the wealth of slang is only increasing more rapidly. This means that each of us, native English speakers included, are to be constant students of language in order for us to use our words wisely and well in our influence for good.

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It has been the bane of teachers and lovers and musicians and authors for centuries:

finding the right words.

For Your Own Sanity

The nature of language is that it’s always changing. Don’t ask me how it does that.

But there’s no shame in asking someone to explain what a word or phrase means. Not only will you gain understanding, but –voila! – you’ve just built a bridge towards someone else. If we are humble learners, our confusion can be a powerful tool for building relationships and keeping us sane.

Because we’re all fish out of water sometimes.

You’ve been there, right? In a foreign land, lost in the language, sticking out like a sore thumb, on the wrong train to a town you can’t pronounce?

Mine was in Paris.

We dropped our suitcases at our hotel and hopped on the subway to find a good restaurant. We ate, no problem, but couldn’t quite remember the way back to our beds. For hours we strolled the alleyways and neighborhoods of a city we didn’t recognize trying desperately to find someone who spoke words we could understand.

It’s enough to drive you crazy.

Even if you grasp the formalities of English, it’s not difficult to feel as lost and wandering amongst the slang as I was along those Paris streets. Grasping the informalities of language can make a huge difference to our daily enjoyment and understanding of what’s going on in the world around us. It allows us a greater sense of control which feeds our confidence and contribution to the conversation. Mastering American slang keeps us in the game.

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Not to mention it saves us from craning our necks the next time someone greets us.

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