Foreign students learning English are now being taught modern phrases and slang words such as “beef”, “bare” and “fam” at schools and colleges, new research reveals.
But it is not just overseas youngsters who are learning modern jargon, including “salty” and “drip”; the teachers themselves are also having to get to grips with it.
A study by Trinity College London - an international English language exam board - found 71 per cent of overseas students learning English are asking teachers and lecturers to explain slang terms they have seen on social media, TV or elsewhere.
Trinity surveyed 505 academics who teach EFL (English as a foreign language) to students in the Generation Z age group, which covers those aged from 12 to their mid-20s.
Among those expressions most queried by the learners are “beef” (an argument), NPC (non-player character, ie a boring person) and to “pop-off” (go crazy) while others on the list include “rizz” (good at chatting-up or flirting), recently declared Word of the Year by Oxford University Press.
The survey found 80 per cent of foreign students arrive knowing multicultural English (MCE) slang terms, having picked them up through social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, but do not always know their meaning.
Gritty British TV series such as Top Boy also have an international audience thanks to Netflix and other streaming services, which is also influencing the English being picked up by younger overseas students arriving in the UK.
However, they are also learning our language from other internationally broadcast US series such as Friends, Grey’s Anatomy and Stranger Things and 45 per cent speak English with what is called a GenAm (general American) accent.
As a result, more than two thirds of EFL teachers (67 per cent) now include MCE in their lessons whether it is “bruv” for close friend or “bare” (a lot, many, very) but also recommend typically British series such as Bridgerton, Sherlock and Downton Abbey.
Dr Ben Beaumont, head of English language teacher education at Trinity, said: “The findings highlight the evolving nature of language in a connected world and the growing impact of social media and popular culture on language acquisition among Generation Z.
“The rise of streaming TV services and the popularity of specific shows have turned language learning into a dynamic, multimedia experience for Gen Z.”
While new words are being incorporated into classrooms, outdated expressions from “broken record” to “dialling a number” are confusing to the youngsters, as are idioms such as “neck of the woods” and “best thing since sliced bread”.
Dr Beaumont added: “Our study highlights the nature of language learning in today’s interconnected world, where social media and popular culture play pivotal roles.
“It’s essential to keep pace with Gen Z’s language journey and offer engaging ways for learning to blend seamlessly with their multimedia experiences.”
The research was commissioned by Trinity College London when developing its new Skill Up learning app which helps foreign students learn English.