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Culturally specific language practices related to vernacular uses of taboo language such as swearing represent a socially communicative minefield for learners of English. The role of classroom learning experiences to prepare learners for negotiation of taboo language use in social interactions is correspondingly complicated and ignored in much of the language teaching research literature. English language teachers confront not only obstacles to effective development of sociolinguistic and cultural knowledge in classroom instruction, and failure of course-books to address taboo language, but also uncertainties they themselves have about addressing such obstacles and omissions. In this paper, we draw on interview data from three experienced teachers of English as an additional language, to explore their perceptions and classroom practices in relation to taboo language. In particular, we explore the situational appropriateness of mild taboo swearing using the lexical item, bloody, which has a strong positioning in Australian language culture. Dilemmas surrounding this potentially troublesome item of Australian English are foregrounded in relation to the extent to which often neglected, but widely used taboo language is actually ‘taboo’ in the classroom.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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