Phrasal verbs…groan. Idioms…yum! When it comes to idioms, English learners are “all ears”. Here are 7 reasons why English learners give idioms two thumbs up.
1. Learners can often visualize idioms
While idioms aren’t always literal, learners can often picture an idiom or think of an experience related to one. Who can’t picture an “old flame” singing “at the top of his voice”?
2. Learners have idioms in their own languages
Students often experience an “aha moment” after hearing or reading a new idiom or slang expression. This is because the learners have a similar way of saying the same thing in their own language. In a way, idioms show that we all speak one language.
3. Learners long for connection with the proverbial “native speaker”
No matter how many times we tell learners that they cannot (and should not want to) become “native speakers” they still use this expression when they voice their language learning dreams. Being able to use and understand the language of a “native” brings learners closer to their goal.
4. Lessons with idioms are often more relevant
Resources that use plenty of everyday idioms are typically more modern and communicative in comparison to theme or grammar based lessons from outdated textbooks.
5. Idioms are typically taught in context
While phrasal verbs are often taught in isolation with rules about when and how to use them properly, idioms typically come up in context. Idioms can and should be treated and reviewed just as any other vocabulary. You don’t teach your two year old which words are phrasal verbs, do you? If you’re going to teach an idiom in isolation, consider making it a daily ritual with time for review and practice.
6. Teachers have fun explaining idioms
Most English teachers have a love of words. Students can feel the sense of enjoyment teachers have when explaining interesting words and expressions, especially when real life examples are used. Learners who take a risk and use the new idioms enjoy the praise of getting it right.
7. Idioms are often humorous
Idioms such as “by the skin of your teeth,” “birthday suit,” or “loose cannon” make everyone laugh. A good giggle is often enough to seal a new word or expression firmly into the brain.
Resources for Teaching Idioms to English Learners
Everyday Idioms 1: First Love
Everyday Idioms 2: First Year
Everyday Idioms 3: Moving to New York
100 Most Frequently Used English Idioms
Idiom of the Day
ESL Culips (Podcast)
Read: Without Slang and Idioms Students are in the Dark by David Burke
Contributed by Tara Benwell