domingo, 5 de diciembre de 2010

Something to say about: Idioms

Apart from sayings and proverbs, the English language is full of interesting expressions we call idioms, or idiomatic expressions. As we know, these idioms can be quite hard to get, since many of them can´t be interpreted literally. Take for instance: He was pulling my leg. Do you mean that somebody had actually grabbed your leg and started pulling it, as if to rip it off your body? Of course not. And How about:  I have to hit the road. Hit the road?, with a hammer?
The thing is, English is such a colourful and varied language that, if we don´t pull up our socks and learn some of these idiomatic expressions, we can find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.
If you want a piece of the action, visit the following link (not the only one, of course) and browse the lists of idiomatic expressions, I´m sure it´ll make your day.
Now, the ball is in your court.

Cesar Klauer

3 comentarios:

AmigoBryan dijo...

Well, it seems to me that much of common English IS expressed through idiomatic expressions. Also, a lot more of English is fairly unidiomatic, but is still heavily invested with what Mike McCarthy and others at Cambridge refer to as collocations. What is the difference between the two? Maybe I can illustrate using the common example, the translation of "hacer pregunta".

Several idiomatic ways to say this:
"To fire off a question"
"To pop 'the' question"

However, the correct collocation for this is not "to make a question", but:
"to 'ask' a question"

I think that idiomatic expressions are more colorful, and invoke any number of images (such as a catapult with a question falling on an unsuspecting victim) as in "fire off a question".

And instead, collocations such as "ask a question" are often far older or more remote than idiomatic expressions, and do not always invoke images. Further, while idiomatic expressions are also innovative, collocations are restricted to the exact combination of words.

I often think that it is a mistake to teach idiomatic expressions too early, although, as a native speaker, I can't resist showing them to students. The result of too rich a language imbued with idiomatic expressions is Cesar's illustrative post! Of course, he is presenting the topic "with both barrels", but have you ever met someone who ONLY spoke with idiomatic expressions, because they learned them all from US or UK TV?

I believe that collocations (and there are are so many of them for all kinds of verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and such) are the dominant peculiarity of English, as they are of just about every other language. While idiomatic expressions are "as much fun as a barrel full of monkeys" (not!), we can avoid many problems with trying to attain fluency by simply concentrating on the standard collocations.

Thanks, Cesar, for this topic! I think it is most important! :)

Cesar Klauer dijo...

Thanks to Bryan for the insights and, unwillingly of course,give away the next topic of this blog: Collocations.

Carissa Peck dijo...

One of my favorite topics with students because there's so many and they're so much!

I just posted about bee idioms! In one of those worksheets I made sure that my sample sentences were from real news articles, and I think this is important. Far too often students are taught idioms that have fallen out of date or are really never used. If I can't see it in a Google news search, then I am not going to go out of the way to teach it to them (unless of course it is in another context that we find ... a song, or tv show perhaps)