A lot of times, I hear normal sentences without slang and sentences with slang. With my youth and inexperience with slang, it seems difficult for me to understand whether someone is using slang or not without asking the person. Other times, I assume the slang is normal and treat it as not slang until someone tells me that it is so.

So how can I easily differentiate slang from normal, non-slang words without having to ask or bring a book with slang phrases in it (which was recommended by a few friends)? This would also help improve my fluency within the language while adapting to the culture/community around me.

  • 4
    Can you define slang? I don't think, from a linguistic standpoint, there's really a difference between slang and non-slang, so distinguishing them from each other is probably impossible without a large cultural context.
    – Flimzy
    Apr 8, 2016 at 7:03
  • Dictionaries use various markers for this such as 'informal', 'obscene', etc. I think the notion of 'slang' is more of a catch-all term for many of those categories. For example, 'poop' is listed as informal, 'shit' is listed as offensive, 'stool' is listed as medical, and 'feces' has no marking. Which of these words you actually use for that concept ultimately depends on the situation.
    – Brandin
    Aug 27, 2021 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


Normally, only native or people who are extremely familiar with the language can identify slang. It is not really easy to determine this any other way than experience.

The textbook way of speaking is in many ways a form of slang because native speakers normally never talk that way. This has been my experience with several different languages. The natives never follow the textbook.


One way is to develop comprehension through fiction. If you're reading a novel then there will be characters who you think are probably using slang. Look at the way their speech patterns differ from other characters and the narrator. Over time you'll be able to distinguish which specific words are more casual, just by looking at their use in context.

Note: this process takes a very long time

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    May 29, 2016 at 16:22

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