Sunday, November 21, 2010

Including but Not Limited to Ass, Damn, Shit, and Fuck

Yesterday one of my students, upon coming to class late, flipped off a classmate who'd called him something in Chinese. I stopped my review of phrasal verbs ("Do fuck off") and told the student, "Don't do that," feeling weird about correcting him. I added, "You don't know what that means, so you're not allowed to do it," but he might've known or at least had an idea that it was something supposedly bad. I'd love if my students swore. It'd be less ridiculous and more to the point—at least in the Englishes I'm used to—than, say, "Buck is a girl." But the contexts of the conversations my students learn don't include cussing or giving folks the bird. Again, I'm thinking about the difference between English as a second language and English as a foreign language. It's irresponsible to teach words without context.

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