A piece of cake: learning and teaching idioms Suzanne lrujo
Learning idioms has always been very difficult for second-language learners. This article discusses some of the reasons why idioms are difficult to learn, including the fact that most materials for teaching idioms are inadequate. To help teachers prepare materials and activities for teaching them, criteria are suggested for deciding which idioms to teach, and ten activities are described which will help students understand and produce idiomatic English.1
The introduction to the Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English states: ‘Familiarity with a wide range of idiomatic expressions and the ability to use them appropriately in context are among the distinguishing marks of a native-like command of English’ (Cowie and Mackin 1975:vi). While many second-language learners may be satisfied with something less than ‘nativelike’ command, idiomatic usage is so common in English that it can be difficult to speak or write without using idioms (Seidl and McMordie 1978). The learning of idioms must therefore be considered an integral part of vocabulary learning. The purpose of this article is to help teachers of English as a second or foreign language to prepare materials and activities for teaching idioms. The first section explores some of the reasons why it is difficult to learn idioms in a second language. The second presents five criteria for deciding which idioms to teach, since it is impossible to teach all of them. The final section offers a variety of activities for comparing the literal and figurative meanings of idioms, and for teaching students to comprehend and produce them. There are several learn in a second explanations for the fact that idioms are very difficult language. Some of these will be explored below. to
Difficulties involved in learning idioms Non-literalness
Idioms are not literal; they do not mean what they say. An idiom is defined as ‘an expression whose...