Developing effective ESL euphemism lessons is one of the most beneficial ways teachers can help English language learners. Using euphemisms involves using a word or phrase that is more socially acceptable in place of another word or phrase perceived as inappropriate in certain contexts.
Speakers use euphemisms to:
Factoring in the great amount of genre specific language in English (legalese, doublespeak, political speak, etc.) failing to understand euphemisms leaves students vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation by language.
While native speakers understand the nuances of English, ESL students often struggle to internalize the social codes of conduct that fuel the need for euphemisms; therefore, they find it very challenging to use them effectively.
This is particularly problematic because the English language fluency requires users to master this skill. In addition, through the rise of political correctness, the English language is becoming more and more euphemistically complicated every day.
Lessons need to begin by clearly defining what a euphemism is and by giving some very common examples. Such as:
Continue by writing some commonly euphemized words on the board and see if the class can provide a list of effective examples.
Start your list on the board with examples of words that have negative connotations to demonstrate how substituting gentler words can create a more polite effect:
Continue this brainstorming activity before going on to the next set of euphemisms.
Demonstrate another important use of euphemisms - showing how language is manipulated to add value to certain words or ideas. Notice how these examples often involve occupations:
They have now seen concrete examples of how certain language softens the impact of words and how to manipulate language to inflate or mislead. Students can now take sentences filled with euphemisms and translate them into simple, direct language.
Break into groups and provide each group with two or three examples of sentences using euphemisms. If students haven’t heard a particular euphemism before, encourage them to try to figure out the possible meanings by looking for context clues in the sentences:
After the groups create their sentences, have them share their findings with the class. The more creative the teacher is when creating the example sentences, the more fun the exercise can become.
As with all issues involving second language learning, leading students through ESL euphemism lessons in the classroom can provide necessary awareness and introduce critical skills, but they are not enough on their own.
ESL students, even more so than native speakers, need to read, write, and speak in English at every available opportunity. There is no magic button to second language acquisition; but effective lessons, combined with English immersion, can ultimately lead students to English language fluency.
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