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Linguaholic

Profanity and Learning English


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If you want to be steeped in the culture, knowing slang words and curse words is pretty key. It can only add language barriers if you're in a practical situation and someone is using tons of words you don't understand. I think it's rather asinine that some words are so taboo in the first place.

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Well, it's pretty much impossible not to learn them. They're everywhere.

Personally, I believe that we shouldn't be afraid of swear words. They can even be art sometimes. Either way, knowing at least the most popular ones is necessary, we have to know if somebody is trying to insult us  :angel:

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Depends on the extent to which you will be coming in contact with the language. If you are just going to the country in question for a visit then there is no need to know the local slang but if your involvement with the locals in greater than you need to know the slang. You might just end up missing the nuances of the language otherwise. Same goes for the so called profane words.

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Do you think it is necessary or important for someone studying English to learn about profanities and curse words. Why or why not?

Yes, I think it's extremely important to know about profane language.  Regardless of whether or not you choose to use it, you will otherwise have gaps in your comprehension of both spoken and written language if you're not aware of these words and don't know the meaning.    It could lead to awkward social situations.  You might very well get an entirely different impression of a conversation if you are lacking the knowledge of certain words.  If I didn't know these words in a foreign language and I were visiting a country where the language was spoken, I would feel uneasy. 

And they have become commonplace even in written language although they are sometimes modified with asterisks when spelled out. 

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I agree, they are part of the language. And a very important part, at that.

If you can't tell an insult from a expression of surprise, or even of admiration (all of which can be expressed with the same curse word in English) then you are liable to get into confusing situations.

Beyond that, I find them fascinating. Did you know that they've been found to reduce pain in stressful situations?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8147170.stm

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It is definitely important to be aware of curse words when you learn English, in some contexts they are quite common and you need to be aware of them.

I would suggest you hold off using them yourself though, unless you have a fantastic grip on exactly when it is okay to use them. Inappropriate use of English curse words is widespread and just because you are used to hearing a swear word in some contexts does not mean it is okay in other contexts. An example of this is the widespread use of the English f-word in Quebec, even on TV shows and from children. Even though words like that are common in English, they are still jarring and extremely inappropriate to a native English speaker in the wrong context.

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I'm sure learning English as a second language would be tough if you didn't put at least some time into learning all aspects of the language, including slang and profanity.  That said, I find profanity in any language to be rather useless.  For me, it's a matter of exerting some control over myself.  I can't seem to do it with food, exercise or anything of the like so I compensate by not using profanity.  Lame, I know.

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Yes, it's very important to learn the profanity. This is so you can make a choice to remove yourself from the situation if you are uncomfortable with it or redirect someone to another topic.

Then if you like it, you will be able to take part in the discussion. An added advantage, if you are mad at someone who doesn't like profanity, you can cuss them out in another language that they don't know.

Learning the profanity, allows you the speaker to make informed decisions.

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You don't have to use them.  You only really need to know what they are and what they mean. It's weird if someone complains to you about being called a b-word or a c-word or even a motherfleeeper and you don't really know what they mean. Basically the same reason why you'd learn the other words too. :P

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Very interesting answers! I also believe that it is necessary for people learning English as a second language to at least be aware of the profane words that comes with the language. People who are currently learning new languages are very susceptible to "accidents", and a simple mispronunciation or a slip of a tongue can cause very big trouble.

My next question would be: When teaching English, should profanity be included in our curriculum?

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My first instinct is to say no, but then I think about all the profanities I don't know in Spanish, and in a real-world setting, that kind of hinders me a little bit. If you want to be comfortable with all aspects of a language then knowing the slang is key as well. Doesn't mean you have to use those words, but at least you'll be able to tell when people use them around you! D:

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Very interesting answers! I also believe that it is necessary for people learning English as a second language to at least be aware of the profane words that comes with the language. People who are currently learning new languages are very susceptible to "accidents", and a simple mispronunciation or a slip of a tongue can cause very big trouble.

My next question would be: When teaching English, should profanity be included in our curriculum?

I think it might be best to offer that as optional with the caveat to students that it might be offensive to them.

I wouldn't require it.  I would leave it up to the individual.  If there is a workbook, the profanity could be in a separate section -- again, with the appropriate warning.    It could be kind of like music albums that are sold with a warning label or how in everyday life online we have the acronym  NSFW "not safe for work."  If it's online content, similarly, I would offer it with the warning. 

I do think that a study of profanity would be useful for the reasons you outlined; it could help people avoid accidentally saying something offensive due to a slight mispronunciation.  Likewise, as others have said on this thread, I think it's a good idea to know if someone you are speaking with is insulting you!  And generally, it will help you in following conversations and comprehending what is being said.

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Yes I think it would be effective if you learned about the curse words of English. I mean if you want to thoroughly study English you have to know about all of its words and terms. Its not like you will be using any of the curse words you learn anyway.

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I speak English, and I don't swear.  But so many people do.  If you didn't at least know those words, you might get confused because they are said in many different contexts.  And you wouldn't necessarily have to say them yourself, but you might to sometime!

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It isn't necessary, but profanities are unavoidable. One way or another, you re going to be exposed to profanities if you are around native english speakers.

I for one love profanities and think learning them are one of the more fun aspects of learning a language.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Do you think it is necessary or important for someone studying English to learn about profanities and curse words. Why or why not?

I believe it's important to know what they are; to learn them yes. I won't say you should necessarily use them though. I remember when I was in high school that one year one of my fellow classmates asked me to shout out to a fellow student who was running up a stairway. I called him: "Big Rat". I didn't know that it was actually our teacher that was referred to as "Big Rat" until he came out and scolded me. Similarly, I don't want to be tricked into calling out a foreign language word that I don't know the meaning of.

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  • 9 months later...

I'm surprised really. What I've found is that so many people who can barely even speak the language certainly know the curse words by heart. I guess it's a part of being in the culture, but they should at least be proficient before they go swearing at people...

sorry for gravedigging I had to

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I think it is important to KNOW the curse words but not necessarily to USE them. Of course, it is personal preference. I have plenty of friends with "colorful" language, though I myself tend not to curse as I believe it makes me appear and sound both ignortant and uneducated.

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  • 1 month later...

I think it's important to also know the profanity and curse words if you're studying another language, whether it be English or not. Because if you'll not study them, you'll never know if you're already being stepped on or offended by native speakers of such language. Be aware of the words, but don't use them, of course. :)

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I don't usually use profanity so I would want to say no, someone studying English doesn't really need to know profane words. However, it does make sense because at least you'll know when someone is being rude.

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