The other day a student came into the waiting room and was greeted by one of my part-time teachers with a “Hi. What’s up?” as they had met before. My student seemed a little shocked and didn’t know how to respond. Overhearing the conversation I thought that I had better go over it with her in the lesson because it’s a very common greeting between younger people.
After going over the appropriate meaning and response we did a little role-playing. Something that is essential when learning a language. Having the correct body language and action is sometimes as important as the sentences / words themselves. It took about 20 minutes of class time but she really understood how to use it as well as why it’s used. She really did a great job and sounded very natural in a very short amount of time. I can’t wait to say “What’s up?” next time I see her.
Native speakers often don’t realize how some basic expressions for us are extremely difficult for people learning our language. Slang and idioms might be part of our daily life but they don’t directly translate making it tough for people to understand or respond to. So next time you get a blank look when saying something we believe is easy, think again, it might not be for the listener.