Teaching Slang in Spanish Class

Does slang have a place in a High School Spanish curriculum? How do you feel about teaching slang in Spanish class?

I hear people say “we learn a different Spanish in school” all the time! Parents and students say this, and it makes me laugh a little! Every year I have this same conversation with my students, usually multiple times. We talk about how Spanish is Spanish almost everywhere you go, but some words vary by country and/or by region. I compare it to the US and England; French fries vs. chips, elevator vs lift, etc. I even mention how in the north we say soda, but in the south people may say pop.

Should You Be Teaching Slang in Spanish Class?

My answer is… yes! Our students LOVE slang! What they are really interested in is how to say bad words! I don’t think we should teach them those words, but encouraging new and authentic language is great!

Personally, I don’t make it a main focus or even a unit. But there are many ways to work it into your normal curriculum. **And to be honest, some years I DO make a special mini unit for my AP Spanish students who have earned that right!

Even when it’s not a main focus, when students learn new words and expressions, they often find that they notice them in the songs they listen to or the shows they watch! Just like when we learn a new English word… all of a sudden it comes up everywhere!

And let’s face it- slang changes. What better excuse to use some of your summer to travel!?!? It’s for work! You need to be up to date on the latest slang!

Country Specific Slang

If you plan on teaching slang, it’s important to point out to your students which country the slang comes from. There are a multitude of videos on YouTube that are short and fun for students. But a word of caution! Some of them are not school appropriate!

I would also encourage including a variety of countries instead of just one. A starting place could be with a Spanish-speaking country in close proximity to your own. (Puerto Rico or Mexico would be a good starting point if you’re in the US).

Another idea would be to include slang from the countries of heritage of your students. You could even get family members involved by emailing them for suggestions to include or maybe invite them in for a short mini lesson for your classes!

(Check out the resources at the end of this post if you’d like some “ready to use” activities!)

Teaching Slang Using Expressions of the Week

Another way you can work in more colloquial language is by using an “Expression of the Week”. These are not always slang, but sometimes idioms or phrases that may not translate word-for-work from Spanish to English.

I have a set of interesting and high frequency phrases in poster form. I change it each week, and encourage my students to find ways to use it in their speech and classwork! Not everyone does it, but those kiddos who really love learning Spanish appreciate the opportunity and enjoy finding ways to work in the expressions! Check it out below if you’re interested!


Spanish Slang and Texting Bundle

Spanish Expression of the Week Posters

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