A screen cap from South Park's episode "Good Times with Weapons."
One of the things newcomers who end up as teachers in Japan love to do is teach profanity to their students. They justify it by claiming its "real" language which students need to know. This is 98% bull cookies. The 2% which is valid applies to people who are interested mainly in consuming entertainment from other cultures which happens to include profanity and those who are going to live in an environment where they will certainly be exposed to "curse words".
The latter is a far smaller portion of the English language studying Japanese population than immature teachers who focus on the profane and scatological would care to recognize. The vast majority of people who interact with foreign culture have no need for such words as they tend to move about in a limited (vacations), official (business), formal (ceremonies), or sheltered (home stay) capacity while abroad. For this reason, I have rarely taught or mentioned such words in my lessons. I think most people teach swearing because it's far more interesting for the teacher to talk about "bad words" than to teach how to use articles or verb tenses. It's also a lot easier for the untrained teacher to prattle on about the "eff word" and it's gang of lesser pals than to learn to teach textbook content.
For the first time, I think I've got a student who actually needs to have knowledge of baser English vocabulary. This student is headed for a university in northern middle America and I'm concerned that she won't be able to relate to college-level pop culture. Her interests lie more with Disney sitcoms that are targeted at pre-teens than in college humor.
Since I'm 43 years old and college was 22 years back for me, I am not sure what college kids are into in this day and age. I asked my much younger friend and partner in pop culture inanity, "the wombat stuffer", as he not only graduated about 2 years ago and is more in touch with what college kids may talk about, but is vastly less mature than me in the best way possible. Anyway, he told me that Comedy Central fare is still valid including South Park, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Since my student can't possibly grasp social and political commentary because the context is too broad, I directed her more toward South Park as a means of dipping her toes in the icy water of adult-oriented pop culture.
The main problem with South Park is that it is rife with the kind of language you don't want to teach a Japanese person for fear that they'll use it wrong and look really stupid. Worse yet, they may use it correctly and end up offending someone because they don't grasp appropriate context even when they use proper grammatical usage. This is something I've heard and read on more than one occasion. English colloquial expressions do not flow trippingly out of Japanese mouths. My students are often writing "oh my Got!" I've also read and heard "fack" on multiple occasions. I've have never experienced a student who could use obscenities in a way that didn't make me want to laugh in his face.
The best I can do for my student is send her to the Comedy Central site and recommend she watch a few episodes. Fortunately, I'm also able to direct her to a script site so she can read the English as she can't understand it because it's delivered at lightning speed. Even this is complicated by the fact that dictionaries often do not include the zestier definitions of words. In trying to explain that she'd likely see Kenny (in South Park) die again and again and hear the same lines repeatedly and one of those lines included "bastard", I discovered that the Japanese translation that came up was "unnecessary".
So, if she's hearing, "oh my God, they killed Kenny!" followed by "you bastards!", she's hearing 'oh my Got, they killed Kenny...you unnecessary'! That's not quite the impact the line is supposed to have.
While my intention is to help my student find some cultural touchstones with the college juniors and seniors she'll be associating with, I can't help but feel like I'm corrupting a minor. She's so innocent and clean-minded. I'm rather torn between the feeling that it's "wrong" to expose her to such "impure" influences and the idea that it'd be far worse to send her off to the U.S. in a month with no understanding of the sort of rough talk that she'll no doubt be exposed to. When it comes down to a choice between sullying her with the sort of talk in English that she doesn't use in Japanese or allowing her to end up possibly looking and feeling like a clueless dork, I guess it's better to choose the corruption.