WR 121: Should international students study American slang? Enthymeme Discussion Essay

English 101

Essay Prompt: International students should study American slang because they can better understand American culture. Draft an argumentative essay that responds to a question at issue utilizing a strong enthymematic claim and evidence. This essay should respond directly to a question at issue through its enthymeme and make an ethical argument through in-depth reasoning without […]

Should International Students Study American Slang?

The use of slang in conventional languages is prevalent worldwide, and more so in American culture. The trend has been perpetuated by media outlets, purveyors of popular culture, politicians and the country’s youth. Arguably, the inclination toward new words or phrases is not a coordinated effort by these groups to undermine and pervade the usage of Standard English, but it is a fad that is ephemeral and unique to every generation. Consequently, English scholars who hold conservative views on the usage of the language bemoan the degrading effect the invasion of slang has had on American society; however, their outcry only confirms the recurrence and influence the latter has on everyday use. According to the article “The Power Of Slang,” it originates from the oppressed minorities, sports, vice cartels, and the youth to establish common ground among its speakers; consequently, it is also heavily influenced by industrialization, immigration, mass communication, and urbanization (Dalzell). The usage of slang in America aids in addressing nuances of status, and finding mutuality between peers could be beneficial; therefore, international students should study  American Slang because they can better understand American culture.

American Slang Usage in Understanding the Culture Better

“How does our language shape the way we think,” the article postulates that language influences our thinking patterns, unlike languages shaping the individual’s perception of the world differently (Boroditsky). As slang words and phrases are short-lived and are used to describe and propagate ideologies in the society at that particular moment, their use is the best marker for foreigners to understand the new society’s mindset. Arguably, this makes used by an international student to adapt to the community quickly and effectively.

When I first got a scholarship to an American college, I was so excited because I was finally getting to meet students from all over the world and learn about their cultures and many other things. It was quite a shock when I finally landed in the country and realized that the American people’s outlook differed significantly from what I was used back in my country. That was the same time that I became friends with Cheng, a Taiwanese student admitted at the same time as I did, and we struck a friendship while taking classes to improve our spoken English. At the same time, I retreated to social media, where I could easily understand the language of the simple yet effective posts, even though they were largely written in emoji, memes, and slang language. The more I interacted with them, the more I realized that I could understand American ideologies, culture, and perception better, and not at the expense of disregarding my people’s experiences and way of thinking. I found that the experience of using slang extended from social media into the real world, and this enabled me to integrate my student’s life seamlessly and fast; arguably, the use of the language helped me to find common ground with my classmates in which we could share experiences through common ground understanding. Unfortunately for my Taiwanese friend, his effort to understand the American way of life through taking English classes and then applying the lessons to the real world is challenging. Even though a person can learn a foreign language fast enough, it takes time to extend its use to the thinking pattern it is supposed to create; that’s where slang use comes in by providing a high ground in which each person can view another’s perception without accentuating the gulf between their former experiences. Therefore, it is fair to postulate that slang used by non-native students will aid them in getting a firm grip on the American culture and values better than using Standard English only.

American Slang Usage in Recovering from Cultural Shock

When a student from another country or culture comes to the United States, one of the first things they will notice is that the social behaviours, ideas and customs are very different from their native country’s norms. Arguably, this may cause disorientation which makes the person stay beset with problems which may linger for an extended period before they finally adjust and adapt. One of the crucial areas that can be used to lessen the impact cultural shock has on the individual is breaking down the language barrier and gaining the feeling that you belong to the school community. The usage of slang establishes commonality among the speakers and instils the ‘tribe mentality that goes a long way in developing an identity for the person; consequently, it creates a mutual language that forms the foundation to overcome the cultural shock. These attributes convey the use of slang and feeling to instil the mentality that you belong to a lexicon ideology clique that is shaping the society through imagination and originality; this aids in the student adopting the mindset that the slang users are part of their teammates. Arguably, this assists in diminishing the effects felt through culture shock.

I found that I felt more comfortable conversing with my friends on social media and at school than they were in talking with other American people who were not in the same age group or were not up-to-date with modern slang words. Consequently, this happened in my early months when I was still taking classes under National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) scholarship. Arguably, this created an “it’s us against them” mentality that aided in de-alienating the cultural differences while finding common ground; it also helped in alleviating the cultural shock, and it did not take long for it to wear out altogether.

American Slang Usage Broadens the English Language

As much as the prescriptive Standard English-language guardians are decrying the demise of the language if the young people who use slang have their way, there is no denying that it could not be further from the truth. English became the most popular in the world because it borrowed heavily from German, Latin, French, and Greek dialects. It can also be noted that there is a variety in the language use and vocabulary according to the region; a good example would be that the British language refers to a car’s bonnet, while the Americans term it as the car’s hood. English has also been known to borrow some of its terms from slang; words like twerk, me time, selfie, and phablet, among others, have found their way into the Oxford dictionary. These words are derived from slang which in turn is influenced heavily by youth; any native language from an international student that finds itself in the slang language has a chance of finding itself in everyday use resulting in it being a boon that will advance the English language expansion.



Work Cited

Boroditsky, Lera. “HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?”. Edge.Org, 6 Nov. 2009, https://www.edge.org/conversation/lera_boroditsky-how-does-our-language-shape-the-way-we-think. Accessed 21 May 2018.

Dalzell, Tom. “The Power of Slang.” Pbs.Org, http://www.pbs.org/speak/words/sezwho/slang/. Accessed 21 May 2018.


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