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Guide to American Slang for International Students

Studying in the United States can feel exciting and overwhelming all at the same time! Especially if it is your first time in the U.S., you might feel like every single thing is brand new to you.

You’re not the only international student to feel overwhelmed in a new culture!

These are just a few experiences you might have:

“How does the bus system work? How do I ask for the bathroom? I don’t want to look like a fool! How do I order coffee or lunch? Wow, this is not what I am used to. How does a taxi work? What are the rules for tipping in different situations? How should I greet someone who is older than me?”

While we might not be able to help remove every single challenge you’ll face being new to the United States, language is one area where we are experts. If you want to feel comfortable and confident in the United States, you should consider taking English immersion classes with Excel English Institute.

Language is the foundation of culture. Without it, all of us would struggle to accomplish basic tasks every day. In addition, we’d suffer from isolation and loneliness! While you’ll learn all the proper English in our classes – how to read, write, and speak English – you’ll encounter many phrases in everyday life that you may not understand!

Slang is defined as, “an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The key part of that definition is “informal, nonstandard vocabulary.” Slang is tough to actually study because it is linked to popular culture and changes over time. Slang phrases that were popular in the 1970s or 1980s are widely irrelevant in 2020. Let us help you prepare for anything you’ll face!

Top American Slang for International Students

1. Blow Off Steam

This means to relieve stress somehow!

An example is: “I’m going to take a walk to blow off some steam.”

2. Break a Leg

This is a phrase wishing someone good luck!

We hear it most often in the performing arts. “Break a leg!” is said to an actor before going on stage.

3. YOLO!

This is an acronym for the phrase: you only live once. Meaning – go for it! You only live once!


4. All the Feels or All the Vibes

This is an exaggeration of feeling overwhelmed, with a sort of humorous overtone.

“This song is giving me all the feels right now.”

5. Hang Out or Chill Out

Getting together with friends is also referred to as “hanging out” in the U.S. You can also say “chill out” as a way of saying let’s go relax.

“Let’s go hang out at home. We can chill out there.”

6. Legit

This word is used when something is shocking, or difficult to believe. It can be used as a replacement for the word actually.

“He was legit working a 12-hour shift on 3 hours of sleep!”

7. Bail

This word is used in place of leave. Someone might say, “let’s bail” and that just means let’s get going. Another way to phrase this is to “hit the road.”

“Are you ready to hit the road?”
“Yes, let’s bail!”

8. Spill the Beans

This phrase refers to telling a secret or revealing information.  If a friend warns you not to “spill the beans”, it means they don’t want you to tell anyone their secret.

“This is just between you and me, don’t spill the beans!”

We hope these phrases help you feel more at home in the United States! If you need help learning English to pass the TOEFL exam or work on your career, we are starting new sessions EVERY MONTH so you don’t have to wait for a new semester!

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