Travis
A question for English learners, how do you learn swear words?

I was just thinking. Swear words are considered inappropriate to use in professional situations (like teaching), so many people learning the English language aren't taught how to use them.


But, they're important words to know if you want to speak fluently! As a native speaker I can tell you that, even though it's rude to say, "fuck" is one of the most expressive and versatile words in the language. It can be used for anything from humour to anger, or just general expressiveness. If you become good friends with native speakers, I guarantee you will hear swear words at some point (unless they're elders or devoutly religious), and if you're friends with teenagers you'll hear them all the time. Having only a partial understanding of how they work could lead to some unfortunate misunderstandings. 


So my question to English learners is, are you taught swear words? Do you think they're important to know? How do you learn about them?


May 21, 2018 12:40 AM
Comments · 15
If you are using swear words you are not speaking fluently. You are speaking colloquially. Generally, it is considered that swear words are used only by speakers who cannot express themselves and very often marks you out as being illiterate.
May 21, 2018
@John, "a good painter can depict anything without resorting to blue paint" might be true. But this doesn't mean that "a painter who paints with blue paint is bad".

@Phil, as you see, I think it is jsut 'one of many' expressive means  a languge has.

May 21, 2018
I agree that learners should acquire passive knowledge of “swear words,” but I don’t agree that they are ever necessary for communication. (Then again, everyone has a different communication style.) As far as Richard Dawkins, learners should be aware that his quote probably does not apply to their situation.

For one thing, when Richard Dawkins said that, he was quoting someone else (a former editor of New Scientist Magazine), so those weren’t really his words. Or so he would have us believe. For another thing, using vulgar language to insult traditional Western culture under the guise of supporting science is guaranteed to go over well with an audience of California socialists. It’s like “preaching to the choir,” so to speak. He probably could have said anything he wanted and gotten applause. English learners should not necessarily expect the same positive reaction. Then again, it depends  on who it is you hang out with.

Here’s the clip of Dawkins on Youtube. His pleasant tone of voice definitely doesn’t hurt:

May 21, 2018
I have taught English for more than 15 years and if the subject of swear words comes up, I will teach my students those words, only after asking them for permission. I do so to protect them from being unknowingly verbally abused or ridiculed. 
May 21, 2018
I think I understand. So the general attitude is it's worth understanding their meanings and the different contexts in which they're used, but people would generally opt to avoid using them in speech? That makes sense! :) You can easily have a natural conversation without profanity (so perhaps I misspoke when I said they're important "if you want to speak fluently", more if you want to 'listen fluently', if you will). 
May 21, 2018
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