Episode Transcript
Ixchell Reyes 0:01
The DIESOL podcast

Brent Warner 0:02
Developing Innovation in English as a Second or Other Language.

Ixchell Reyes 0:07
Episode 84. What the F should we do about teaching swearing?

Brent Warner 0:27
Welcome to DIESOL, this is episode 84. We are your hosts. I’m Brent Warner.

Ixchell Reyes 0:33
And I’m Ixchell Reyes. Hi, Brent.

Brent Warner 0:37
How you doing?

Ixchell Reyes 0:33
I got sick last week. Taiwan got me. I won. I had the stomach flu, but I’m still eating all the things.

Brent Warner 0:47
All right. So if you remember we mentioned this on a previous show. You did get sick when you were in Japan as well. You right episode we recorded

Ixchell Reyes 1:00
the recording live. And while you were at then I feel like we had an interview a guest that day. And you were talking through something I left to go puke. Yeah, I couldn’t do that this time. So

Brent Warner 1:12
you don’t have the constitution that you had a year ago.

Ixchell Reyes 1:16
I’m old.

Brent Warner 1:19
You’re feeling better now though.

Ixchell Reyes 1:20
Yeah, feeling better. And I’m returning to the US soon. And we have a lot of listeners in Taiwan. So shout out to my Taiwanese listeners to our Taiwanese listeners. Yeah.

Brent Warner 1:33
Yeah. Very cool. So hi, everybody. Ni Hao. Oh yeah. I took a year of Chinese when I was in college, I should definitely know that Ni Hao was right.

I mean, I only took a like, I think a four month course. And that’s about all I remember. Yeah.

It’s hard. It’s hard to hold all the languages in your head, right. Well, here we are. We are we made it to me. i We’re heading into finals around this time for our classes and wrapping things up. And so there’s just man, it’s been busy all this AI conversation too. I’ve been doing whelming know, I’ve been doing so many presentations. Which is good, because a lot of people have a lot of questions. But on the other hand, I’m just like, oh, man, I need I need to stop saying yes to all of these to these presentations. I like doing it in the moment. But then I’m like, oh, man, I’m tired. So so here we go. We are today talking about a little bit of a different topic, something we haven’t talked about yet.

Ixchell Reyes 2:46
So let’s let’s dive in. Let’s let’s let’s jump in

So recently, one of my former students asked me a kind of a funny question, curious question. And he started asking me for particular curse words in Spanish or swear words in Spanish. And I asked him, Well, why are you suddenly interested in Spanish? And he said, his brother has learned all the curse words in English and now he needs a new language to curse in. So so. So you and I were talking about why is it that language learners are so drawn to learning the curse words in, in, in in the target language? And also, should we as teachers, you know, we always tend to shy away from talking about those in class. And we decided that this was an interesting conversation. So here we are. Yeah, we are.

Brent Warner 3:51
So so I didn’t say go ahead and curse on the beginning because I can bleep it out. But I do not want to be searching for every time you curse throughout this episo tomorrow, so I just

Ixchell Reyes 4:04
said the letter F that’s all that’s

Brent Warner 4:09
all right, so we’re gonna have a heck of an episode today. Don’t make me do tons of editing please. That’s my only request

Ixchell Reyes 4:16
You already have to edit my name. So…

Brent Warner 4:19
God, I know. Everybody out there listening. If you ever make a podcast that auto transcribes don’t make a coat, don’t get a co host named Ixchell. Auto transcribe is, I guess it’s racist, right? Is that bias towards Michelle or shall, or hell? Like we’ve talked about this a little?

Ixchell Reyes 4:40
Oh, yes.

Brent Warner 4:43
Yeah. All these crazy things that I find when I’m trying to replace your name in there, but

Ixchell Reyes 4:47
Brent has to go in there and do it manually. So thank you, Brent. I will not curse and add more to your editing tasks

Brent Warner 4:54
I’ll curse the auto transcribe for not getting it right after all these years. All right. So, yeah, so this is it’s interesting. So your student was out there and wanting to learn how to curse in Spanish, right? And we do know this, right? There’s always kind of the common joke that like, oh, the very first things you start learning are bad words. And that might vary depending on your personality. There’s actually a lot of research on this topic out there. You know, Ixchell we found a couple of episodes through all or sorry, a couple of Article articles through this, but there’s actually like, this is a well studied area. And I’m interested in knowing who the people who study and do this research artists, they’re like heavy cursors, and they justify their work or, or whatever the reasons are, but But regardless, I remember even years ago being at a codicil conference, and one of them was like, one of the sessions was about using bad words. And so this is not a brand new topic in our field. It just doesn’t get talked about very often, right? People just kind of assume, well, you’re just going to not really talk about it, you’re not going to teach your students bad words for all of these, you know, kind of the common reasons I think, Well, do you teach? Do you teach bad words in your classes?

Ixchell Reyes 6:12
I don’t particularly like I don’t carve out a portion of my lessons to teach only bad words. But inevitably, some something happens where you have to address what is proper and not proper. Or if someone uses a word they’ve seen in an they’ve heard in a movie, and then they use it in the wrong context. Or you then you have to kind of pause and stop and explain to them the functions of that word. And so then that leads into a bigger conversation. And inevitably, there will be like a 20 minute discussion. And then I always tell my students, if you have any questions, you can ask me I’m here, this is a language classroom is better for us to talk about it here than for you to make a mistake or not understand once you go to places where people expect you to be able to discern, and so I don’t shy away from it. And I also let them know when you use that word in my classroom, I feel it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. And so I often also have to teach that at the same time, so that they they know and because I personally don’t curse often. So it does make me feel uncomfortable, like Chris more than I used to, because I’m comfortable to a degree like with the letter F and saying F but yeah, what about you? Do you teach your students curse words?

Brent Warner 7:39
Um, kind of the same? I think so. I’m not not the the you know, the George Carlin seven bad words, but like, when the lighter curse words come up, and we have to talk about them for whatever reasons, I’ll usually talk about them, but I even them, I’m a little well. So number one, I think I’m much more of a curser than you are in private life. Right? I let it slip and I let it fly all the time. Although I you know, I should probably I am able to control it better than some of my friends for sure. But, but so with the class though, I am a little bit anxious around it, I guess. And I’m like, I don’t really I don’t want my students to think that I’m going out there and doing inappropriate things. And since some of some of my students are also adults and a little bit older, they might be a little bit more sensitive to these than maybe the younger kids. But you know, things will come up like the kind of the the half bad words like like ass, and the other day. The other day?

Ixchell Reyes 8:45
How is that a half bad word? When did it become a half bad word?

Brent Warner 8:48
Is it a really bad word?

Ixchell Reyes 8:49
I don’t know. When my students say it’s like my ears like ah,

Brent Warner 8:52
yeah. yeah.

Ixchell Reyes 8:53
But then, I don’t… I use that word all the time. So it doesn’t seem bad.

Brent Warner 9:00
It’s definitely like, I mean, there’s like a scale for these words, right? So that one’s kind of like on the border line, right? And then you remember when you were kids and we had like all the safe words for all of these right? So it’s like “fudge” and “darn” you know, like all of these things right? And that’s what you could safely get away with when you’re a kid. But I also don’t know if kids kids these days modern kids even control even censor themselves at all but but yeah, so So anyways, I kind of have mixed feelings about it and the other day, this is not a bad word, but boob came up because of boob tube but I still even felt a little bit uncomfortable with that because I’m like I said the dumbest thing in class I’m like, I’m like this is not this is not boob and I think I said like, like this the sexy part. something dumb. Like as if a boob just by itself is somehow sexy. (laughter) So I apologize to whatever the word gods are out there. But, but anyways, I do get very, you know, in class I get kind of sensitive and..

Ixchell Reyes 10:08
We’re a bit more hyper aware, right? But I also think I, when I was studying French, I remember my French teacher told me, I am going to teach you the bad words because you’re going to hear them and you’re not going to know what they are. But when someone, a French person tells you to mind your onions, and she said, whatever that was in French, you need to know that it means they’re very angry at you, and you need to mind your own business. And it’s so again, I just thought that was neat that she was not shying away from it. And she was very, she was just approaching the issue of cursing in another language and understanding the complexity of using those words and what it might the consequences for language learners who might be shy to ask an item or who might want to try their you know, as they’re developing the persona that they’re going to use in that other language to play with the words because I know oftentimes, my students will blurt out a word. Sometimes it’s the shoes. And it’s like a weird, awkward placing in the sentence. And it’s like, oh, they’re playing with the language, they’re playing with the language, okay, until they that becomes part of their lexicon there. It’s gonna sound awkward. And I tell them, I said, You sound so awkward. We know that that’s the first time you’re used it out loud. But you need to practice it, you need to practice it in a safe environment, you also need to be aware that it could be offensive to people. So I do approach it from that angle, I guess.

Brent Warner 11:42
Yeah. Well, I liked that I liked I liked what you said about your teacher, because, you know, I think that her approach sounds better than my approach. Because if she’s just very straightforward and matter of fact about it, I actually think that there’s a level of professionalism kind of tied together with that, right as compared to my way of like, trying to hem and haw around it until, you know, until I really justify that I’m not really saying this, but I’m just gonna teach it you know, like, I do all this like this song and dance this pony show about like, trying to justify why I’m actually talking about this, when really, it should just be like, we need to know this, like, here’s what it is. Here’s one, one aspect or one when one contextual element of this that we’re going to talk about for right now. Maybe I’m not doing a whole class on it or anything like that, like you said, but But I do think that that is important. And there are a lot of reasons for these two. So I know we found a couple of articles in here. One of these was swearing in a second language, the role of emotions and perceptions by Ariana Mohammadi. And you Ixchell, I know you found a couple of, or at least one, one or two quotes out of there. And I found a couple two that were interesting. So let’s share a couple of the ideas that came out of there.

Ixchell Reyes 12:54
Yeah, for me, it was the quote that stood out. And I think it’s, it’s why I I feel that I need to address whenever it comes up not and not shy away from it is that the article summarizes it quite well. Swearing can be offensive and a device for expression of negative emotions. But also in contrast, swearing may also occur in positive context to promote group bonding to display identity to express humor, solidarity, trust and intimacy, or to simply function rhetorically and add emphasis to the message. The article also says that swearing may be used as a way of enacting dominance and exerting social power. And I think you and I have talked a little bit about that. And then as we’ll go through, we’ll chat we’ll chat more about it.

Brent Warner 13:39
Yeah, super interesting. And a couple other quotes that I liked from there that might overlap a little bit, but but I think they’re worth kind of repeating and considering the first one was swearing is a social linguistic practice that is emotionally laden. And second language users, particularly in naturalistic and an immersive contexts are likely to acquire swear words as an unconscious in group social strategy, or as a mechanism for second lingual, second language identity construction. And this one, for sure, I see with a lot of my students, right, like, especially trying to get into that making that as an in group strategy. You know, they want to make sure that they’re using this language in the same way maybe that they’re, in my context, and their American friends are using them right or, or how a native English speakers at different levels might be implementing these things, and if they’re trying to be kind of similar to their friends, or if they’re, if they’re trying to present themselves in different ways. So and then that second part about the second language identity construction, and Ixchell, I know you have this experience, too is like we’re slightly different people in our in our second, third and other languages, right. And so the way that people perceive us is also, you know, comes out of the way that we’re using language in that length in, in our second language in our L two or beyond. And so I thought that was just a really fascinating thing to consider because we go, okay, well, what is my goal for or what is my students goal for trying to learn these curse words or the swear words or whatever it is and how to use them appropriately. And then the second quote that I really liked inside of here was speakers of English as a Second Language report a preference for swearing in their first language in various emotional scenarios, including high arousing emotional situations, such as the time of anger or extreme pain. So when they’re really highly aroused, they’ll they’ll use more of their first language, which makes sense, right? I mean, I think to me, you know, cursing in English, if I stubbed my toe, for example, definitely is more cathartic than, than cursing in Japanese, for example.

Ixchell Reyes 16:00
But actually curse in Japanese, like curse words? Well,

Brent Warner 16:04
I think this goes to the point too, because because this is actually a really a really good point. Because I never feel like my length my L two bad words are that bad, you know? Like, they don’t carry the strength in the power in my heart, I guess of, of the curse words in my language, right? In English in my case, and I do you feel that way about your other languages that

Ixchell Reyes 16:30
you do? I do. I actually think that in Spanish, some of them sound awful, they’re horrible. And then then I just show the English ones just not as bad as the Spanish one. But But I but I was, you know, as I was explaining to my student that different words in Spanish, different swear words in Spanish, I said, well, that’s kind of like saying the F word. But when when you use it in this context, it might mean this. And that’s really bad. So never, ever say that unless you’re extremely upset. So yeah, I think that because it’s tied to emotion and tied to what we what we first learned to express emotion, when we were first speaking, right. So it’s more of it’s a it’s got more power, more emotional power.

Brent Warner 17:15
Yeah. But an interesting thing inside of this article, too, was what they what they did, and inside of this study, was they showed these videos with no audio and they kind of had students use their L one, and then English as their second language to kind of describe or maybe narrate what was going on. And they were kind of emotional, emotionally driven. But what they found was that the less emotionally driven scenes tended, the students tended to use more curse words to describe it in English, which was their second language than they did in their first language. So the high emotional driven ones, they use more cursing in their first language, because it’s more visceral for them, the lower ones are still, they’re still emotionally driven, but they’re not quite as powerful than those ones, or where people are less likely maybe to use curse curse words in their first language, but more likely to use them in English as their second language, which I thought was fascinating. Because we might be a little bit more carefree or perhaps a little bit more loose with our with our language choices in our second language, right? And so we have to be aware of that when we’re talking to our students as well, because they might just be throwing it out there, not thinking that it’s going to be as powerful or perhaps as offensive to, to the Rama, there’s

Ixchell Reyes 18:38
no, yeah, there’s no emotional connection to the word. And I’ve had instances where, for example, a colleague here in Taiwan, actually, a colleague, had students introduce each other. And the first question the student asked, the other question in English was, what the FS your name, but that, that s thrown in the middle of the word startled, my colleague. And so then he had to pause and say, Wait a minute, wait a minute, we don’t just add the word Fs as an adjective, or, I guess what if what would have been like an intensifier? We would probably never use it in that way. Unless you were a police officer interrogating someone who was refusing to give you a name or had given you a false name or something. And so again, there’s no emotional connection to it. So they don’t feel the I guess the power or the weight that the word might carry for the people who do speak that language as their first language. Yeah.

Brent Warner 19:38
Yeah, super interesting. Right. And so the student then in that case, didn’t really think about it or you know, wasn’t wasn’t as proactively thinking about it, possibly. On the other hand, and I’m not sure what that scenario was, but there’s all there’s other uses right? Well for for, for swearing and cursing which is not just about trying to is one not not necessarily negative, right, we can use them for purposes of humor, we can use them for purposes, for emotional purposes. There was a second article that we also found from 2013. By Haoran, and it was called, you taught me language and my profit on it is I know how to curse cursing and swearing in foreign language learning. Which we don’t have to worry about where that title came from, I guess right now, for those of you who are, who are literary fault fellows, and fellows and fellows, what, why did those? We’re, I’m loopy already. Okay?

Ixchell Reyes 20:46
Late where Brett is late,

Brent Warner 20:47
it was late for me tonight. So. So anyways, this article showed a few other points in here to Ixchell. I know that that that one of the this this article was outstanding, actually all the way from beginning to end. And so we’re gonna kind of use this to guide some of our conversation, but but I know that you pulled out one or two ideas from there as well.

Ixchell Reyes 21:06
Yeah, I think, well, as we already said, you know, when we are addressing language, and anything that our students are going to be using as part of their lexicon. And, obviously, swear words are, how we express some emotions. But the article said that it is safe to say that whether a language learner chooses to swear or even avoid swearing, they should at least be aware of the patterns context and repercussions of swearing. And I think that this kind of this is where the conversation comes from. And, and having this as an episode is that we probably do need to cover this, rather than shying away from it because it is part of the language. And to not give the opportunity for students to learn that is robbing them of that very opportunity that they they are the ones who are going to choose to swear or not swear, but they need to understand what will come after more of it.

Brent Warner 22:07
Yeah. And so the quote that kind of ties into what I was saying before, from that same article was, in addition to communicating powerful emotions, using quote, dangerous language, cursing and swearing can be communicative in another related sense, these forms of taboo language, often express personality identity, as well as humor and should therefore, feature in language learning. And so I thought, okay, that is really interesting as well, because there’s so many aspects and, and this language is prevalent, right? Like it exists all over the place. And then, for some reason us as language teacher, we sit there go, Well, that’s the one thing that

Ixchell Reyes 22:49
they don’t happen or pretend we don’t use it or pretend it we never personally ever would ever use it. Yeah. Lies thinking that in your head.

Brent Warner 23:00
Yeah, so there’s a, you know, there, you might think your teacher is innocent and pure, but the these words exists in their lexicon, right. And so. So I think it’s okay to talk about these things to share. You know, I do think that there is a tie, it’s worth taking the time to figure out how you’re actually going to present this type of information, and really, how you’re going, like how long you’re going to spend on it. And, you know, I can absolutely respect that there would be a fear around this, because if a teacher all of a sudden, started saying, well, now I’m gonna teach you bleep and bleep bleep bleep and bleep and bleep. And then a student has their like, phone, phone out in the corner every quarter. Yeah. And it’s uploaded to the internet. And then you’re like, oh, with no context, or whatever. You know, like, there’s, there’s tons of potential for problems inside of there. So I would say, you really do want to think through that setup. But this article, that second article, the cursing and swearing in foreign language learning, had a couple of guidance sections that I thought were just really interesting. So Ixchell, we’ll go through these kind of these questions in the sub headers, but we’ll talk through it through our own thoughts. But a couple of sections inside of there. The first one was, why should we teach cursing and swearing? So we’ve gotten to a couple of these points inside of here. But I’m going to start with the first one and then I’ll have you respond, react. So the first one is because cursing and swearing are important characteristics of emotional speech.

Ixchell Reyes 24:34
Gosh, frickin Darn it. Yes. And that phrase doesn’t quite have that emotion I wanted to convey. No, yeah, absolutely. If you’re really angry and you respond with like, oh my gosh, right. The same sounds really fake. That’s not I don’t know and I feel fake. If I if I use that and I know that if when I say it is because my nephews are around. Oh yeah.

Brent Warner 25:01
Yeah, I think that that’s a you know that alone it matters, right? It’s there they are, these words are tied to our emotions. And and it’s not only outgoing, right, because it’s incoming as well when somebody is, for example cursing at you, maybe there’s road rage situation, or maybe there’s something else going on, right? You also want to know, I mean, you would understand by their body language, probably, you know, in a lot of these cases, but But you know, to be aware of what that language means, and what somebody is saying to you is going to be important. And you’re not always going to have perfect sunny days, every day of your life. Yeah, living in an English speaking context, right.

Ixchell Reyes 25:39
And it could be something where you’re not cursing at anyone, it could just be oh my gosh, you, oh, my gosh, I know that I’m aware that I’m recording live. You dropped the glass on the floor, and you had broke, and now you’ve got to clean it up. But you’re in a hurry. No one’s listening. But now if you suppress that emotion, that emotion stays inside. So you might it might come out as aggression somehow later. So another reason to why we should teach cursing and swearing is because language learners are often interested in rude or dangerous language. What do you think?

Brent Warner 26:17
Yeah, I think that it that’s absolutely true, right? It’s one of the first things that people search out when they make friends with people. They’re like, teaching me the bad words, right? Like, they can just have some fun with it. And it’s also, uh, you know, it’s, it helps you. I mean, it’s in our media. Yeah, you’re kind of pushing the boundaries, right?

Ixchell Reyes 26:44
And I would say, I would even say that what, what a more safe scenario to practice than English class than going outside and you know, saying it randomly because you, you want to make a friend but then actually not coming out. Right? Or not coming out. Right. And then you’ve actually offended someone. So I think that that’s, I think it’s a safe risk taking opportunity.

Brent Warner 27:09
Yeah. Especially if someone’s like, well, maybe this will tie into the next one. But I’m also thinking about, like, if you’re learning from watching TV, or watching movies or something, right. And let’s say for example, it’s a couple of very close friends who are giving each other a hard time, right, and then they’re, they’re cursing as they’re giving each other a hard time. And in the context of them being very good friends, right? Like that kind of rude or dangerous language is okay. But yeah, but when somebody but if you don’t know that person, and then you just come up to them and start cursing. You know, like, you might think, Oh, this is cool. This is the way that we bond with each other, but it’s actually something you should only be doing after you’ve bonded with the person. Right? Right. Okay. So next one is because Kherson swear words are versatile and culturally specific.

Ixchell Reyes 28:04
Yes, you don’t want to translate something from your own from your own language, and then it comes out. Weird, or you don’t want to use the wrong I guess the wrong curse word. I mean, some I know, in other cultures, I mean, like you said, their culture is specific. So in some cultures, calling someone a dog might be the ultimate insult. Whereas in English, we make so many jokes about mothers. And and that’s just pretty insulting. And so people have got to be very, I guess, aware of the context, right? Yeah. And the culture.

Brent Warner 28:45
Yeah, yeah. And there’s a line inside of here to just want to kind of take up on this section, it said, although it’s important to address cursing and swearing as part of everyday part of everyday spoken emotional utterances, even vulgar isms, one should not neglect the cultural and literary value of taboo language. So I thought that was, you know, that that makes some sense to me as well. So it’s like there is value here beyond it, right? You can, you can take a look at understanding what’s the tone of somebody saying this thing, right? How are they emphasizing their ideas and, and of course, with you know, in English, by the way, like, there’s so many different ways we can take the same curse word and put it into lots of different places, and then it’ll serve different purposes, right, where it can be a good meaning, right? You know, like, you know, that’s, that’s freaking amazing, right? And we could say that in turn can be totally positive in those senses as well. Right? So So there’s ways to to recognize that the these words are so flexible and then that can create confusion for students as well.

Ixchell Reyes 29:54
So another reason why we should teach cursing and swear words is because non native speakers should be taught how to swear properly, you’re not saying it in the wrong place, like my student. What the eff is your name as a first question I don’t think he understood like, well, people say it in movies. They say it all the time. We do. But it’s also a specific places that we say that we use the F word.

Brent Warner 30:19
Yeah, yeah, there is. You know, there’s context. There’s register there. There’s all of these. Yeah, go totally. And then one of those things, too, about, you know, like, as we’ve talked about learning from movies, and learning from TV shows, right, is that they seem to reflect reality. But then of course, we know that movies are not reality and TV show not reality, right? And so when you’re talking about these dialogues, you’re like, yeah, in the TV show, it’s there. And yes, we do say those things in those ways. But we don’t necessarily cram them all in together into, you know, 30 minutes of talking, and just the same way that I have never driven my car through a, you know, through a mobile build. Like, it would seem like every every American has done, watch a you know, action movies or whatever. So. So we have to be, you know, we have to kind of set that up and say like, Hey, let’s be aware that language use in movies, even natural seeming language use is not always actually natural, right. And so we want to be a little bit careful about those parts as well. Okay, so, so I like those, those are a few interesting points inside of there. And then we’re gonna we’re gonna shift to the next part. So what do we got?

Ixchell Reyes 31:40
Well, the pedagogical implications of teaching, cursing and swearing, and number one, according to that article, is that cursing and swearing are taboo forms of language, and therefore difficult and embarrassed, who would dress? And of course, you know, once you start looking at the origin of those swear words, you’ll you’ll notice right away that quite a lot of ours are related to religion, or their religious based, right. And so that may be offensive. And it could often be, yeah, very embarrassing to address, especially those that happen to be related to also bodily fluids and diseases, right? Well, there’s

Brent Warner 32:22
all that as bad. Yeah, for sure. There’s all sorts of parts, right? Because that’s all a lot of the cursing comes from those right or sorry, the swearing comes from that. And the cursing, I guess, technically, according to this article, the cursing is religious based, right? And so also, you might have highly religious students in your class, right? And so if they’re coming from a, you know, like, let’s say, a devout Catholic background, or whatever, whatever background, religious background, and then all of a sudden, you start saying, Okay, we’re, today we’re going to teach the, the GED word at, you know, or, you know, things like that. And it’s like, Oh, hold on a second, because you’re not only saying a bad word, you’re also blaspheming. Right? And right, and so like, you’ve got all these, these issues that are tied up inside of there, and, and kind of bundled in so close that you can’t really untie it right. And so, so this is why I think a lot of teachers are going to shy away because they’re saying, Hold on a second. All of that is just too much. Let them go figure it out on their own. And we’ll we’ll just do the, the, you know, the common stuff that we do normally and not have to deal with it. Okay, so next part inside of here, for pedagogical implications is there are considerable age related gender, regional and ethnic variation in the use of cursing and swearing.

Ixchell Reyes 33:55
Man, that’s a lot right there. Clarify. It’s, you know, when I talk to my students, you know, when sometimes the way, based on what you’re, what you’re saying, based on what you’re the curse words, you’re using, much like slang or idioms, I will know what generation you are. Because not everybody’s going to curse that way. The generation Z is not going to be saying that, in fact, most of the words, they say I don’t recognize anymore, and they don’t really seem to have power. It just sounds silly. Which also means I’m old, older, right. But then there’s again, I don’t know there’s I don’t know what else to say about this one.

Brent Warner 34:38
Well, I think that this one’s also an interesting opportunity to teach about, you know, different culture, cultural aspects. So for example, in America, you know, there, there are some things that, you know, it’s not appropriate for us to say so if we’re getting into the racism, conversation, then all of these things. Yeah, I mean, that can get that can get very dangerous. Yeah, fast. Right. Oh,

Ixchell Reyes 35:05
you know, now that you mentioned that one of the one of the, I think the hardest, or I guess most uncomfortable conversations I’ve had to have here with my students overseas, is is about race and cursing and using those words, because they have no emotional tie to the history at all. So they don’t really don’t understand what they’re implying by using a word that they’ve heard in a rap song. Yeah. And I’ve had so many moments where I’ve said, Let’s pause and let’s talk about it. And let let me tell you why we are so adamant about not ever using those words. And it just seems difficult for them to grasp those concepts. But again, my students are overseas. Now if they’re going to come over to the United States, they better know. They better be able to understand the history behind it and what it implies. And I think this brings me to another some kind of like a little success story. This week, I had one of my students use a racially, I would consider it a curse word, but because it’s a racial racially, slur, a slur. And I at the very beginning, and I found that here, there’s other Asian immigrants. And they don’t necessarily get along with each other. So they have slurs that they call each other. And sometimes they just think it’s funny. And I had to address it very head on the first day of class. And I said, if that happened in America, you’d be out of the door. And you would have been in huge trouble, you may have been expelled. And so fast forward to like 10 weeks later this week, what I had a new student who happened to use a slur. And one of the students that I had the talking to the he didn’t know, I was listening. And he immediately said, Oh, no, no, no, no, that’s racism, bla bla bla bla. And he explained it to him and Chinese effectively. And I was so proud of him. And I thought, oh, my gosh. So again, it’s just so important for them to understand what there’s history behind some of these words. Yeah, yeah. And this might have been a slur, but it’s still a it’s still a curse word. I would say swearing. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Bad words, right. It’s not?

Brent Warner 37:27
Yeah. So I think, you know, one of the things that comes up, especially for students that are coming from, so many countries are, you know, mono cultural, or, you know, don’t have all these other things. And so absolutely, really struggle. You know, if we’re talking about like, the N word, right, is that we still say the N word to refer to? Oh, yeah. So so they will hear that in the songs or in a TV show, or movie or whatever else it is. And they’ll say, Well, you know, people are saying this inside of here. And it’s like, well, hold on a second. Like, if you’re not part of that in group, then you’ve got a whole other set, you know, like, and that’s a cultural thing that many students don’t even understand. They’re like, What do you mean part of that in group? Like, I’m not part of that culture? Like, it’s just, that’s America? And it’s like, well, isn’t do Americans believe this? Or whatever. It’s like, hold on, let’s pause on that conversation. Because I often talk about this, which is like, there’s no such thing as what do Americans believe? Right? Any any glance at the front page of any paper will tell you that, but, but a lot of times students don’t really understand that if they’re coming from a culture where it’s just like, oh, we blank, right? We people from this country. And then and then they just kind of assume that they’re all the same. And so so it’s a really is a cultural, it’s a great points to talk about.

Ixchell Reyes 38:52
And also to address like, that’s one of the things you want them to appreciate about American culture, since a lot of them will will tell me Well, in America, you have all these freedoms, and you’re able to express yourself. And this is one of the, again, expressing yourself comes with responsibility. So it’s a great chance to tackle, I guess, the opening to tackle freedom of speech. Yeah,

Brent Warner 39:15
yeah. And the last one in here, again, around the pedagogical implications is, it says cursing and swearing are manifestations of verbal violence. Right. And I think this is one that we really have to be particularly aware of these days is that is a common conversation, especially for you know, the younger generation right now the you know, the the generation that’s coming up and the Gen Z’s I guess I shouldn’t see Yeah, is there kind of really talking about these things and, and making some really powerful and excellent changes for our society, you know, so, so this is this is not a complaint about that is wonderful, but it’s also it also has its own set of implications. I’m like, okay, hold on a second, let’s make some adjustments as this group becomes the one that’s going to be in charge and everything, right. And so they are very aware of the idea that like, hey, so much of this language is, you know, inflicts this, this violence, you know, towards the language in here, women, old people, gay people, the disabled, et cetera, right. And so you’ve got like, these just groups that have been marginalized, you know, whatever group that is, and then we’re saying, Well, hold on a second, they are feeling the pain and the the issues of that, that language as it comes across every single time, right? You know, it’s like the, like, 1000s of tiny cuts, right? Like, like that just you slowly get used to it, but they are pain, right? And for some people, and so it’s really, it’s another thing that you want to take into consideration. You say, Well, hold on a second, we want to understand this. But the argument that they make inside of here is it kind of goes two different ways, right, but but they say, teaching cursing and swearing, it says pump some people say that we should be wary of teaching, cursing, and swearing because they’re part of a taboo and taboo language draws its power from transgressing, socially agreed and enforced boundaries of taste and politeness, right. And then it continues to say that, to teach these things, one could argue is not only to condone the use of potentially offensive language, but also to demystify it, thus rendering it less than powerful. I’m not 100% Sure, I agree with all of that, like, I think it’s interesting to talk about, I’m not, I’m not 100% on board with all of the idea that language is actual violence, you know, like, I have mixed feelings about that. And I understand the argument, but I’m, I am at a mixed point for myself. But it’s it’s a consideration to have for sure.

Ixchell Reyes 42:00
You know, I wanted to just add a little bit to that, in terms that you we talked at the beginning of the show how I tend not to curse, in my, in my off off the podcast of life. And that comes because my that comes from the fact that my dad was really, really strict. We were not allowed to curse at all, ever. And I remember one time I accidentally cursed I didn’t know I was cursing as a child, and I got a big slap across the face. It was not explained to me why. And so I just I just knew I had said something bad, but I didn’t know what it was. And then years later, therapists later, one of one of the therapists, I had said, Hey, one of the things you need to do to figure out who you really are, is you need to do all the things that your dad didn’t allow you to do. And one of them is cursing. So I want you to curse, curse, curse, curse, curse, and then you’re going to find the balance of what is the cursing level for the really Ixchell, not the one that was oppressed by fear. And that is how I was able to integrate the F word into my lexicon. Because before I wouldn’t, yeah, so I do say the F word now, and I’m comfortable with it. And it’s like it took I this is kind of an example of how the word doesn’t have as much power anymore. Yeah, because I’ve balanced it. Of course, I’m not saying it every other word, every other adjective is the word or now and is the F word. But it feels effing good to be able to use that word.

Brent Warner 43:27
I like that though. Because that is a you know, it’s like a, it’s taking the power back to you. Right? And you’re controlling how much or how little you want to use it as compared to it as compared to just being controlled or you know, like saying, Oh, well, yeah, yeah. Right. It’s like, I have to walk around this thing, which adds a different set of burdens to me, right? And so So I think that, that that’s a really powerful way to understand it. And then, you know, I’m, I’m hoping that our students don’t have, you know, the emotional trauma connected with these things, but the same output is a possibility for them, which is to say, like, Hey, you want to control this just like any other parts of language, the more you understand it, the better you can control it, the more clearly you can communicate with who you are through all of this. So I think that’s super interesting. We’ll have links to these these articles. These are worth reading. They’re really fascinating and kind of having a you know, again, it’s just opening your thoughts to what the possibilities are but lots to play around with here. And if you start cursing in your classes, don’t blame don’t blame

Ixchell Reyes 44:45
Effin’ Brent & Ixchell

Brent Warner 44:46
Oh my gosh.

Ixchell Reyes 44:52
It is time for our fun finds. Today I have a YouTube channel that I found as you all know or as some of you may know, I love true crime. And I’ve been following the pretty sad crime about this little boy who was killed by his stepmother but the coverage is quite respectful with with the the hostess guests hola que she’s South African and she lives in the Netherlands and Her channel is grizzly true crime. So she she does a pretty good job and then the community around the the cases that she covers is pretty respectful. So I know that people can very quickly start judging when they’re watching true crime. And so I really liked that she she keeps the community in check. So if you’re feeling like true crime, that’s a good channel.

Brent Warner 45:49
Respectful true crime. And grizzly true crime, well the name doesn’t sound like it’s gonna end up being respectful

Ixchell Reyes 45:58
They’re bears. Grizzly bears, she loves grizzly bears. I know. I know.

Brent Warner 46:04
All right. So mine is a game. I don’t know. Ixchell, did I tell you that we started doing just a very small game club on campus where we’re, we’re meeting every other week and just playing some games together. And it’s just Oh, and I’m jealous. Yeah, it’s pretty. It’s pretty cool.

Ixchell Reyes 46:21
I love game night.

Brent Warner 46:23
Yeah, we’re doing that. Well, you and I used to do that at USC.

Ixchell Reyes 46:26
Yeah, at USC. And that’s one thing that I miss, I miss our Friday game days. We used to just sit there and have so much fun.

Brent Warner 46:34
Yeah. So this is for students anyways, for now. But we’re testing it out and trying to get a little bit of a community going with all of this. But anyways, one of the games that I bought to test this out is a game called just one. And basically, the premise is, I have a car and I have a card and I face it out towards at all everybody else is playing together with me, right? And then everybody else, there’s a word on that card, whatever that word is. So let’s just say it’s banana, right. And so then everybody else in the in the circle has a little, you know, like a whiteboard of some sort. And then they’ll, they’ll write a single word to help me get a hint towards what that is, right? So everybody else, let’s say there’s five other people, there’s six of us playing total, every other every other person will write a single word. But if before I can look at their words, they I have to cover my eyes, and then they show the words to each other. And if anyone has repeated the same word, then they have to put the word down. So I lose that word, if two or more people have chosen, right, so let’s say two people said yellow, then the word yellow disappears from my options of words that I can see for my hands. So maybe I’ll get like, fruit, and I’ll get sweet. And I’ll get you know, long, right? And I Okay, right. So maybe, maybe I would guess banana on that. But that’s kind of how it works. And then the cool thing about it is that it’s meant to be collective. So you actually, the way that you win is that you, you add up points based on how many are on how, how many you got right out of like 10 rounds, or something like that, right? So so it’s a group score for everybody, for when you win it, everybody wins, right? And so it’s meant to be that you’re working together and you’re hoping like, Oh, I hope I don’t see that think the same word as you or maybe I gotta choose something that’s a little bit more obscure, or something like that. And so that then the students get creative with their, their word choices as well. And they’re kind of challenged to not think of just the most obvious answer, but then sometimes nobody uses the most obvious answer. And so it becomes really interesting game. It’s very simple. Yeah, but it becomes like a really thoughtful even though it’s super simple. Yeah, premise. So it’s called just one. It’s worth it for a party game at your house if you want it or if you want to put it into your classroom. Look for that. Yeah, worth it.

Ixchell Reyes 49:03
Cool. All right. If you’re giving us a shout out, anywhere where on all the social medias tag us, I’m not on Twitter as much these days. But we are there and we are reading just a little slowly now because I’m overseas and Brent is super busy. So we do have the Patreon and then for the show notes and other episodes you can check us out at DIESOL.org episode. Oh no. DIESOL.org/ 84 Or listen add voice Edie, Canada that’s V-o-i-c-e-d.ca And you can find us on Twitter. As I said.

Brent Warner 49:46
And other places,

Ixchell Reyes 49:46
What the F is your handle?

Brent Warner 49:48
Mine is at @BrentGWarner

Ixchell Reyes 49:52
and mine is at @ixy_pixy – i x y underscore p i x y

In Hungarian thank you is köszönöm. Köszönöm for tuning in to the DIESOL podcast.

Brent Warner 50:06
Thanks everybody

Is it wrong to say that you should you should eff off at this point?

Ixchell Reyes 50:32
It’d be, it’d be in context. (laughter)

Brent Warner 50:35
All right… goodbye

Why are language learners so drawn to learning the curse words so often as they begin playing with their target language? Should we be teaching cursing in class? In what context?

Explicit language has huge cultural implications and is one of the first things ELLs learn, but we almost never teach it. Listen in as we discuss teachers’ responsibilities around bad language.


Horan, Geraldine (2013) ‘You taught me language; and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse’: cursing and swearing in foreign language learning by Geraldine Horan (2013)

Mohammadi, Ariana N. (2022) Swearing in a second language: the role of emotions and perceptions, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 43:7,

Fun Finds 

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