Swearing: A "Bad" Part of Language; A Good Part of Language Learning

  • Robin-Eliece Mercury


This article proposes that class treatment of taboo language can be beneficial for language learning students. This is not to say that all groups of ESL learners would benefit, nor that instructors should teach their students how to swear in English. However, I suggest that learners need to understand what constitutes "obscene" language in North American contexts, why native speakers choose to use it, and what it signifies sociolinguistically. Arguments are made as to why an ESL classroom may be one of the better places (i.e., a more responsible, mature environment) where L2 speakers can receive explanations about the usage and paradoxes involved in swearing. The author's experience related to the use of taboo language by L2 speakers in a non-English speaking environment is described. In addition, some non-linguistic variables relevant to cursing are also discussed. As a means to open this topic for discussion, this article suggests that there is, in terms of sociolinguistics, study value in the nature and use of obscene language for language learners.
How to Cite
Mercury, R.-E. (1995). Swearing: A "Bad" Part of Language; A Good Part of Language Learning. TESL Canada Journal, 13(1), 28-36. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v13i1.659