Term Paper On Idioms And Their Meanings - Essay for you

Essay for you

Term Paper On Idioms And Their Meanings

Rating: 4.9/5.0 (21 Votes)

Category: Essay

Description

Дипломная работа: English idioms and their Russian equivalents

rise the eyebrows [to wonder]

Charter 2. Different ways of grouping idioms. I’ve found some more more or less convenient ways of grouping the idioms

Classification of phraseological units according to their structure. There are two groups of idioms: nominal a black sheep (of the family) [shame of the family], and verbal to take risks (to risk) as I’ve already told you. As one can see on the diagram, there are more verbal idioms, approximately 65 percents, than nominal ones. In both groups there turns out to be too many idioms, therefore such way is difficult for remembering.

Academician V. V. Vinogradov’s classification. There are three groups of idioms according to this classification. The problem is the same as in the previous case. It’s not easy to remember all of these phraseological units.

Classification of phraseological units according to the parts of speech.[10] There are four groups: nominal phrases: hard luck [misfortune]; adjective phraseological units: all fingers and thumbs [clumsy]; verbal: to get on like a house on fire [to make progress]; adverbial: vice versa [conversely]. At last I tried to divide idioms into several groups, as it’s written in “English Vocabulary in Use”. I also added some more of them. According to this classification idioms can be divided into following groups. As everyday spoken language is full of fixed expressions that are not necessarily difficult to understand (their meaning May be quite’ transparent’) but which have a fixed form which does not change the first group is everyday expressions. These have to be learnt as whole expressions. These expressions are often hard to find in dictionaries. For example as I was saying (it takes the conversation back to an earlier point). This group includes three sub - groups.

Conversation - building expressions – these are some common expressions that help to modify or organize what we are saying. There are many expressions like these. For example: as I was saying (it takes the conversation back to an earlier point). Some everyday expressions can be grouped around key words. The preposition “in” for example, occurs in several expressions: in fact (really), in practice (actually). Common expressions for modifying statements are also a part of this group. For example: as far as I’m concerned (from my point of view). As. as. similes and expressions with ’like’ are easy to understand. If you see the phrase as dead as a doornail, you Don’ T need to know what a doornail is, simply that the whole phrase means “totally dead”. But it’s important to remember that fixed similes are not “neutral”; they are usually informal or colloquial and often humorous.

Idioms describing people[11] can be divided into two sub-groups:

Idioms connected with positive and negative qualities, for example: His fingers are all thumbs (he’s clumsy) or She has iron nerves (she’s composed). How people relate to the social norm, for example: I think Mary has a secret to hide (She keeps something from us). I have divided idioms describing feelings or mood into three sub - groups. They are positive and negative feelings, moods and states. For example: to get on someone’s nerves (to exasperate), to have a horror of (to disgust), to be as happy as the day is long (extremely content). Physical feelings and states. For example: to burst into tears (to cry). And people’s fear or fright. For example: She was scared stiff, (very scared). Next group is idioms connected with problematic situations. The first sub - group is problems and difficulties. For example: a hard luck (failure). The second sub - group is idioms related to situations based on get. For example: to get frustrated (defeat). The third sub - group is changes and staves in situations. For example: to change one’s mind (think better of it). At last idioms connected with easing the situation. For example: to do well (recover), to get off lightly (escape). Idioms connected with praise and criticism, for example: to go on at someone (criticize). Idioms connected with using language and communication. Idioms connected with communication problems. For example: to have a row with somebody (to quarrel). Good and bad talk. For example: stream of consciousness (flow of words). Talk in discussions, meetings, etc. For example: to strike up (a conversation) (to start a conversation). Idioms – miscellaneous. Idioms connected with paying, buying and selling. For example: to save up for (put by). Idioms based on names of the parts of the body. For example: to lend an ear (to listen to). Idioms connected with daily routine. For example: to do up (tidy up). There are also single idioms which cannot be included into described above groups. For example to run out (to come to an end) and some special groups of expressions in “Blueprint” such as all along (always), all in all (as a result), all of a sudden (unexpectedly). The last group of idioms is proverbs. For example: “Out of the frying Pan and into the fire” (from one disaster into another).

Differences in Idioms Usage in American English and British English

The background and etymological origins of most idioms is at best obscure. This is the reason why a study of differences between the idioms of American and British English is somewhat difficult. But it also makes the cases, where background, etymology and history are known, even more interesting. Some idioms of the "worldwide English" have first been seen in the works of writers like Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lewis Carroll or even in the paperbacks of contemporary novelists. An example of Shakespearian quotation can be found in the following sentence: "As a social worker, you certainly see the seamy side of life." Biblical references are also the source of many idioms. Sports terms, technical terms, legal terms, military slang and even nautical expressions have found their way to the everyday use of English language. Following are some examples of these, some used in either American or British English and some used in both:

"Having won the first two Tests, Australia is now almost certain to retain the Ashes." (Ashes is a British English idiom that is nowadays a well-established cricket term.)

"In his case the exception proves the rule." (A legal maxim -- in full: "the exception proves the rule in cases not excepted". Widely used in both American English and British English.)

"To have the edge on/over someone." (This is originally American English idiom, now established in almost every other form of English, including British English.)

"A happy hunting ground." (Place where one often goes to obtain something or to make money. Originally American English idiom from the Red Indians' Paradise.)

In the old days English idioms rarely originated from any other form of English than British English. (French was also a popular source of idioms.) Nowadays American English is in this position. It is hard to find an American English idiom that has not established itself in "worldwide English" (usually British English). This is not the case with British English idioms which are not as widespread. It has to be remembered that it is hard to say which idioms are actively used in English and which are dying out or have already died. Idioms are constantly dying and new-ones are born.

Some idioms may have gone through radical changes in meaning. The phrase - There is no love lost between them - nowadays means that some people dislike one another. Originally, when there was only the British English form, it meant exactly the opposite. The shift in meaning is yet unexplained. All dialects of English have different sets of idioms and situations where a given idiom can be used. American English and British English may not, in this respect, be the best possible pair to compare because they both have been developing into the same direction, at least where written language is concerned, since the Second World War. The reason that there is so much American influence in British English is the result of the following:

Magnitude of publishing industry in the U.S.

Magnitude of mass media influence on a worldwide scale

Appeal of American popular culture on language and habits worldwide

International political and economic position of the U.S.

All these facts lead to the conclusion that new idioms usually originate in the U.S. and then become popular in so-called "worldwide English". This new situation is completely different from the birth of American English as a "variant" of British English. When America was still under the rule of the Crown, most idioms originated from British English sources. Of course there were American English expressions and idioms too, before American English could be defined as dialect of English. Some examples of these early American English idioms follow:

"To bark up the wrong tree." (Originally from raccoon-hunting in which dogs were used to locate raccoons up in trees.)

"Paddle one's own canoe." (This is an American English idiom of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century.)

Some of these early American idioms and expressions were derived from the speech of the American natives like the phrase that "someone speaks with a forked tongue" and the "happy hunting ground" above. These idioms have filtered to British English through centuries through books, newspapers and most recently through powerful mediums like radio, TV and movies.

Where was the turning point? When did American culture take the leading role and start shaping the English language and especially idiomatic expressions? There is a lot of argument on this subject. Most claim that the real turning point was the Second World War. This could be the case. During the War English-speaking nations were united against a common enemy and the U.S. took the leading role. In these few years and a decade after the War American popular culture first established itself in British English. Again new idioms were created and old ones faded away. The Second World War was the turning point in many areas in life. This may also be the case in the development of the English language.

In the old days the written language (novels, poems, plays and the Bible) was the source from which idioms were extracted. This was the case up until WWII. After the war new mediums had established themselves in English-speaking society, there was a channel for the American way of life and the popular culture of the U.S. TV, movies and nowadays the interactive medium have changed the English language more to the American English direction. Some people in the Europe speak the Mid-Atlantic English, halfway from the British English to American English.

The influence of American English can even be seen in other European languages. In Finland, we are adopting and translating American English proverbs, idioms and expressions. It can be said that the spoken language has taken the leading role over the written and the only reason for this is TV and radio. Most proverbs and idioms that have been adopted to British English from American English are of spoken origin. This is a definite shift from the days before WWII. What will this development do to the English language? Will it decrease its value? This could be argued, but the answer would still be no. Languages develop and change. So is the case with English language and idioms.

How then does American English differ from British English in the use of idioms? There are no radical differences in actual use. The main differences are in the situations where idiomatic expressions are used. There have been many studies recently on this subject. American English adopts and creates new idioms at a much faster rate compared to British English. Also the idioms of American English origin tend to spread faster and further. After it has first been established in the U.S. an American idiom may soon be found in other "variants" and dialects of English. Nowadays new British idioms tend to stay on the British Isles and are rarely encountered in the U.S. British idioms are actually more familiar to other Europeans or to the people of the British Commonwealth than to Americans, even though the language is same. The reason for all these facts is that Britain is not the world power it used to be and it must be said that the U.S. has taken the role of the leading nation in the development of language, media and popular culture. Britain just doesn't have the magnitude of media influence that the United States controls.

The future of idiomatic expressions in the English language seems certain. They are more and more based on American English. This development will continue through new mediums like the Internet and interactive mediums. It is hard to say what this will do to idioms and what kind of new idioms are created. This will be an interesting development to follow, and by no means does it lessen the humor, variety and color of English language.

2.1.2 The Difficulties of Translation

Some say, translation is art based on knowledge. Of course, an interpreter must have a good knowledge of the idioms of the two languages as well as take decisions to the best of his (her) knowledge and taste.

So, it seems impossible to find a single English equivalent for all contexts. At first glance, however, it appears quite possible to find several English idioms and translate the Russian idiomatically 'by parts', that is,

And it is not at all enough to know the existing types of translation, that is, for example, to know that Russian idiomatic phrases can be translated by means of

It is only natural that this very classification[12] (as any other) can and does show the result of the translation, whereas the process of translation is really quite different.

The choice of a particular type of translation is secondary and subordinate to the requirements that our translation should be (a) adequate and (b) idiomatic. Besides, the choice also depends on (c) the circumstantial factors of the language.

Papa crab went to complain to the captain but the latter only shrugged his shoulders: "You may complain about them in Marseilles if you wish. "

There was much wealth but little real art. As a whole, it was what French artists, helplessly shrugging their shoulders, called "style triumphe."

Thus, one can see that the nut is not so hard to crack. It is most often enough to 'shrug one's shoulders' and add the words 'in bewilderment' or 'helplessly', or anything that the gesture may mean.

But alas! He had the Achilles' heel, too. Yes, he also had his own weakness. Podsokhin was fond of writing.

One can try and select a synonym (like 'to go off the deep end about smth.') out of the group of English synonyms but. the Russian context may oppose it, for these English phrases may turn out to be too colloquial to be used, say, in the translation of a newspaper text.

It seems, therefore, that in most of the cases we may safely use the method of translating this Russian phrase, 'literally and metaphorically', for a metaphor itself shows its colouring and intention in a flexible way: it is understood from the context, and the stronger the language of the context is the stronger the metaphor will sound. And the suggested metaphor is 'to hurl thunderbolts at smb. (or smth.)'.

This metaphor seems sufficient but it requires a material object for the action, that is, for 'hurling thunderbolts' at something worth 'hurling thunderbolts' at. In other words, one cannot 'hurl thunderbolts', say, at a 'fact' or an 'idea'. One can always do so at a 'person' as well as at something which is a 'state', 'company', 'newspaper' or the like. And in such cases as when there is no material object for our metaphorical action, one may resort-to the idiom 'to blow one's top' and say, for example, 'He blew his top. at the fact that. ' or '. when he heard that. ', which would mean just 'to be fuming'. The phrase 'to blow one's top' is used in the English press and is not very negative though it is quite expressive.

2.1.3 Synonymous Statements and Emphasis

Klavdia, who had not done her addition and subtraction, burst out into loud sobs during the lesson, Katya knocked her pencil on the teacher's desk:

"Pull yourself together this moment, Klavdia."

"By and large, I'd say take your- self in hand," Yevgeny said. "To be quite honest, as man to man, you're a lot cleverer than I am, but you can't stick to one thing at a time."

However, in the following extract, the man in love seems to believe t hat his nervous strain has a permanent nature though his friends who think the opposite advise him that he rather 'pull himself together' and not 'take himself in hand':

"I can't help my feelings," he said, "my love is stronger than my will." Sergei Andreyevich and I naturally advised him to pull him- Self together—but he wouldn't listen. He said his control centres had snapped! How d'you like that?

Thus, we can see that two phrases (in two different languages) that minim the same functions[14] can meet each other, shake hands and lake a junction as allies and brothers-in-arms.

The English language, on the contrary, has quite an opposite tendency. Just see the following example:

"Evidently," Mason said, "your detective is somewhat green at the game." (E. S, Gardner)

One can see that the English language does not insist that the speaker (Mr. Mason) should give an explanation of his idiom and say something like '[because] your detective doesn't know his work well.’

2.1.4 Indices for Interpretation

Indices for interpretation: meaning and usage. Image as selected designation. Beware translating designations.

In physics, mathematics and other exact sciences, two or more phenomena are considered equivalent when they have authentic indices, that is, when all their indices coincide.

You can see that meaning, as an index for interpretation, describes the essence of the action (or event) whereas usage shows the conditions under which a given idiom may be used altogether, that is, the forms of the action, its aims, etc. For instance, in the phrase 'to pull the wool over smb.'s eyes' (mng: to deceive, to fool; use: when a person wants to do it by not letting smb. know smth.) the obligatory condition under which the phrase may be altogether used by a speaker, is 'by not letting smb. know smth.' (the form of the action).

If one takes, say, a number of synonyms (e.g. 'to throw dust in smb.'s eyes', 'to draw a red herring', 'to pull smb.'s leg', etc.) whose meaning is, naturally, the same (e.g. to deceive, to fool), one can see that most of them, if not all, differ by conditions of their usage. It is, then, the condition of the usage, the core of the idiom,[15] that may and, often, should be considered first.

In case meaning indices coincide and usage indices do not, the job of the interpreter is not a bed of roses. One is expected to know the items (i.e. every condition) of the Russian phrase's usage and be prepared to translate them idiomatically. Then, a descriptive translation of the idiom's meaning can be added to our idiomatic translation of the usage and placed after it as an 'explanation' of the English idiom (like 'explanation' in a pair of cause-and-effect relation statements) if the meaning is not clear from the context itself.

'to throw dust in smb.'s eyes'

use: to deceive by preventing a person from seeing the true state of affairs (as if by impairing a person's vision so that he cannot see things clearly).

2.1.5 Proverbs Figurativeness and Its Means

Translators are faced with formidable problems. Many writers and poets thought it necessary to voice their opinion of how one should approach proverbs. V. A. Zhukovsky[16] stressed that translators "should produce the effect of the original." Not a few writers likewise opposed literal, word-for-word translations of proverbs (and we know this to be true), the question however remains: how should they be translated? V. G. Belinsky said that "the internal life of the translated expression should correspond to the internal life of the original."[17] This is true again. It seems therefore that we should do this, that and the other. We agree to do this, that and the other. But, apparently, we must focus our attention on figurativeness when translating proverbs.[18] Thus, our translation of a proverb must either be, in fact, an English proverb or an idiomatic sounding metaphor. And this seems to be the right answer to the question of what we must do above all, especially because "The corresponding image as well as the corresponding phrase do not always present a visible adequacy of words."

And a rhymed metaphor made this sound proverbial.

Of course, it is hardly possible to make a satisfactory rhymed metaphor in the process of interpretation (not translation). However, it is good to know a number of rhymed metaphors by heart so that they could be used as "ready-made" equivalents of some of the 'difficult' and frequently used Russian proverbs.

Suppose we have to construct a pun. As soon as our translation is figurative (i.e. has an idiomatic background), we would have no problem at all in making a play on any of the metaphor's components. Example:

It is not true that 'Business is no bear, it won't go nowhere.' Business is a bear, and there's no reason for it to go. It's got too good a hold on us. Man is a slave of his business!

Use of Proverbs' Structures

Here is an example of an attempt to translate the English proverb "Make hay while the sun shines". This proverb was used in speech being innovated grammatically and lexically: 'to make hell while the sun shines'. The lexical innovation ('hell' instead of 'hay') presents a problem in translation. And life shows[20] that the translation practice does not exclude the following way of solving this problem. Example:

I positively refuse to understand those who anywhere and everywhere wish "to make hell while the sun shines."

I positively refuse to understand those who anywhere and everywhere wish "to make hell while the sun shines."

The conclusion is that one should better not stop at the stage of 'transposition'. One should move farther, till the end of the translation process. As a poet said, "The inn that shelters for the night is not the journey's end."

See the following example of a translation from Russian into English, which is based on an American proverb's structure:

We Russians have a proverb which says that every snipe praises its own bog.

Metaphors Based on Phrases

Original: Little pitchers have long ears.

Here is an example of a good and illustrative translation from Russian into English. The translator (Olga Shartse) had managed to make the proverb's translation figurative (by means of utilizing the English phrases 'to be brave as a lion' and 'to be like a lamb') which served, then, as a solid basis for her making a pun (and for conveying irony):

"I like a good chap for his brave ways'. I can tell right away that you'd be brave as a lion with a lamb."[22]

Use of Colloquialisms

The linguistic means to be used in the metaphorical translation of proverbs are lexical and grammatical colloquialisms.

I. K. Sazonova[23] suggested the following examples of the different kinds of "stylistic colouring" which are (a) neutral, (b) bookish and (c) colloquial:

K- Sazonova's examples:

(a) Would you please go -and see what is wrong there before something happens.

(b) In order to avoid misunderstanding, would you please be so kind as to clarify the situation there.

(c) Go find out what's wrong, or there may be trouble.

We may also compare the two translations (see this Task): "Business is no bear, to run away to the forest" and "Business is no bear, it won't go nowhere". The first translation has no colloquialisms and its stylistic colouring is neutral. The second translation employs them and all of them are grammatical: "won't" is used instead of the neutral "will not", to say nothing1 of the double negation "won't go nowhere".

Incidentally, there is a very interesting and instructive story of how one translation by M. Lozinsky was once criticized by I. Kashkin as being "stylistically artificial".[24] Here is M. Lozinsky's translation (of a Roman proverb used by Prosper Merimee in his "Carmen"):

En vetudi panda nasti abela macha. En close bouche n'entre point mouche.

It is common knowledge that English (and Russian) proverbs may be not only rhymed:

but also arranged rhythmically:

Making our proverbs' translations arranged rhythmically or/and rhymed is also a productive method. Example:

"Besides, what has gotten into Privalov? Who would think of it? Philanthropy!"

"He" s playing into our hands. As the saying goes, whatever toy or play makes the baby gay. "

And such translations as "Leave the child its toy — as long as it's amused" or "It does not matter what you do to humour your child as long as it does not cry" (etc.) speak for themselves. They do not sound proverbial.

(i) It was only the beginning, the rest was still to come.[25]

(ii) That is mere blossoms, we'd like to show you the fruit and how it grows.[26]

(iii) This is only child's play to what is ahead of us.[27]

We have to say (in all fairness) that the last (iii) translation compensates the lack of rhythm (and rhyme) in it considerably by using two English expressions: (1) "to be child's play" and (2) "to be (or: lie) ahead (of smb)". The phrase 'to be ahead' has a neutral colouring. Its synonym 'to be in store (for smb)' is a bit more idiomatic to suit our aims:

"This is only child's play to what is in store for us."

Now, if we ensure proper rhythm in it, the translation may sound proverbial:

"It's child's play to what's in store."

This translation seems almost satisfactory. Yet, we can do more. We can try to make it rhymed:

"It is child's play: it's not as bad compared to what lies ahead."

Stop! That won't do. The words 'compared to' are bookish. They spoil the beans. Let us make another try:

"It's child's play: it's not as bad as what lies ahead."

The stylistic means are correct here. But the rhythm leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. Besides the translation is too long. Let us make still another try:

"It's-only child's play to what is on the way."

Now, we can call it a day. The translation is all right. In other words, we have managed to arrange rhythm and rhyme.

We wouldn't say that these translation variants are absolutely tiptop. Yet, they are better than those quoted above. And they can be an example of several methods of translating used in complex: rhythm and/or rhyme, colloquialisms and English phrases. All of these taken together help to provide our translation with the necessary idiomatic background, that is, to make it figurative.

Epigrams and translation.

This means 1hat our translations of epigrams should be rhymed and have rhythm as proverbs often should (and be brief as proverbs should, too, because proverbs are used mostly in monologues and dialogues and not in author's narration). And this is why we have to foresee the possibility of translating epigrams in the form of two-line rhymed verses.

For instance, the translation

Could you not choose, When forth you sally, Some more remote And proper alley?

is the translation of the epigram made as a verse and not proverb-like. (It is too long in space to be used in one's interpreting, say, a conversation or speech without difficulty.) We have to make it sound brief and, thus, proverbial. For instance, the variant:

"It's no place for your parades. It's no place for promenades."

"It's no place for your parades, nor for Sunday promenades."

Another specific point in translating epigrams is that 'transposition' itself may not convey the idea of the epigram in full for the reason that a Russian listener takes in not merely what an epigram says but what is behind it, what it means being a small part of a bigger context.

One of K. S. Stanislavsky's ideas was that an actor (i.e. a translator, in our case) should know well not only the words he had to say (i.e. the meaning of the epigram's components. in our case) but also what events had taken place behind the stage (i.e. the situation that had given life to the epigram) prior to the moment he started acting accordingly. And this may be applicable to our translating epigrams more often than not.

Hence, our proverb-like translation should better convey the highlights of the general situation in which the epigram gets its specific meaning. For instance, life shows that one might translate the epigram:

as (a) "Don't hustle, don't bustle, But strain every muscle!"

This is sure to convey the idea of the epigram's components, of the words ("Strain every muscle") neglecting the situation of 'cutting hay' as is actually described in the whole verse (and which the English listener, unlike the Russian one, will never presuppose nor understand upon hearing the epigram's words only). This is why we suggest the variant:

(b) "Swing and sway — Cut the hay!"

We could not ignore the bigger context ('hay-cutting') which is always presupposed by the Russian people when they use this epigram.

Classification of translations

As far as the results of our translation process are concerned, they can be classified as follows.

(1) Translation by an English absolute monoequivalent.[28]

(2) Translation by an English relative equivalent.

(3) Translation by a synonymous equivalent.

In translation: to tell tales out of school;

(4) Translation by a translator's equivalent.

(a) being an innovated English proverb, example:

It's easy to open this poke and see the pig.

(b) based on English phrases or/and their components; example:

"Good chap," Tsvetkov said. "I like a good chap for his brave ways. I can tell right away that you'd be brave as a lion with a lamb."

(c) based on an English proverb's structure; example:"

Every snipe praises its own bog.

(d) arranged rhythmically or/and rhymed; example:

In war, to surprise the enemy, and to deal him a blow from an unexpected quarter, we will have to make much longer and more difficult marches than this one. It's only child's play to what is on the way.

(e) by metaphorical explanation; example:

Translating by English equivalents

Translating by English equivalents (being relative more often than riot) seems to be the most productive way of making our proverbs' translations figurative.

When using this method, translators and interpreters have to observe that an equivalent is properly selected from the dictionary, that is, the chosen equivalent:

(a) should be able to convey the Russian proverb's indices for interpretation: meaning, usage, overtones and style;

(b) it should particularly answer the obligatory requirement that its meaning could be understood even by those who hear the English proverb for the first time.

(c) Besides, it is preferable that the equivalent itself should not be archaic,

(d) and its image should be as close to that of the Russian proverb as possible.

(e) The equivalent should not have undesirable connotations.

Chapter 2. The Development of Students Language Awareness on the Base of Using Idioms in Classes

2.2.1 Pedagogical implications

This paper offers some suggestions (including sample exercises) for the teaching of idiomatic language. First, the relation between non-idiomatic and erroneous language in foreign language learning is examined, and it is concluded that non-idiomatic sentences do not so much break categorical rules as venture into the grey area of weak combinatorial probabilities between linguistic items. Idiomaticity is thus seen as a scale, but less idiomatic is not necessarily to be equated with less acceptable, since both conventionalised and original language have their place in discourse. Crucial is the issue of appropriateness in context. Full-blown idioms represent firm collocations whose meaning is conventionalised and metaphorical. Where this meaning takes on an aphoristic quality we have proverbs. The underlying principle of metaphor provides a structural systematicity to the lexis, which extends far beyond full idioms into all but the most core uses of lexical items. It is suggested that exercises of a problem-solving nature will help learners to unearth these pervasive metaphors in idiomatic language, and some exercises are presented.

This has important pedagogical implications. Bartlett[29] (1932) established in a whole series of experiments in which subjects were presented with incomplete or inconclusive drawings or narratives that subjects sought to impose meaning on the item by fitting it into their own meaning structures. Thus, stories which contained references to unfamiliar cultural practices were modified in memory so as to fit in with subjects' own cultural expectations. Bartlett called this essential characteristic of human cognitive processing "effort after meaning". The very fact that idiomatic language and proverbs are so semantically opaque makes them excellently suited to a problem-solving approach in teaching which can exploit learners' innate cognitive drive to make sense out of their environment. The exercises presented below are intended to be purely indicative of the approach I am advocating, rather than being a recipe for success. There is nothing cut and dried about them. Rather, they are intended merely as guidelines whereby the teacher can stimulate cognitive activity. They are intended to be used not as a testing instrument but as a teaching aid to provoke discussion and brain-storming. Comparisons with the L1 should be encouraged so that learners become aware in which respects their language resembles English in the underlying conceptual metaphors it employs and where it differs. In multi-cultural classes interesting patterns of similarity and difference emerge here, and clearly this is a field which has been hardly researched. Students will become highly motivated to translate their language's metaphor into English so as to impart to the class their own culture's method of metaphorical encoding. Sometimes reasons for similarities and differences among languages can be adduced from obvious cultural differences (e.g. metaphors deriving from the Bible in Christian cultures, or differences concerning gastronomy, climate, geography), but some- times differences are not explicable. I have also found that students react evaluatively to different metaphors in different languages, such as English a bull in a china shop compared to German an elephant in a china shop. One can debate which the «better» metaphor is.

Sample Exercises: A

Task: 1) Try to work out the meaning of these idioms.

2) Do you have idioms in your language which have the same meaning as some of these?

a storm in a teacup

to have your heart in your mouth

to have a bone to pick with someone

to cut off your nose to spite your face

to drink like a fish

to kill two birds with one stone

to be like a cat on hot bricks

to make a mountain out of a molehill

to pull someone's leg

once bitten twice shy

Comment: This exercise should be done in groups. The teacher should
first make sure that the literal meaning of each lexical item is known to the class. (Dictionaries should not be used). Otherwise students are not in a position to employ inferencing strategies. Often L1 idioms will help students to arrive at the solution. Sometimes there will be false friends, however. This is all to the good, since when the teacher goes through the solutions, it is the incorrect guesses which will be focused on so as to aid retention in memory of the correct solution, which the teacher will first try to coax from students and, if all fails, will explain.

In the above form the exercise is suitable for advanced students. Much interesting discussion and exchange of information will arise from inter-lingual comparisons in a multilingual class, as students work hard to literally translate their own L1 equivalent idiom. This promotes the sort of cognitive analytic activity which will help to build a separate store of L2 idioms linked by meaning associations to the much richer L1 store. All students will benefit from the realisation that different languages may use different conceptual metaphors.

For less advanced classes the task can be facilitated by means of line drawings of the idioms' underlying metaphor which students first have to match to the appropriate idiom. Next, they may match idiom and drawing to a jumbled list of definitions which the teacher has prepared.

For even weaker classes some vestige of cognitive activity can still be maintained while employing a rather spoon-feeding method of presentation. Exercise B is an example of this (using different idioms). Here, students do not even have to match idioms to a jumbled list of definitions. The idiom is followed by its definition, but a key word is missing. Key words are presented separately in jumbled order and the exercise operates on a cloze principle. This exercise is suitable for individual work. Experience has shown me that the idioms are better retained in this way than if they had merely been presented with definitions already complete.

Task: 1. Complete the blanks below with the correct word. Use each word only once.

2. Do you have equivalent idioms in your language for any of these meanings? "Translate" your native idioms into English. See if the person next to you understands.

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

This means: DON'T BE OVER- -----

He is like a bull in a china shop.

This means: HE IS VERY- -----

His bark is worse than his bite

This means HE IS ----- THAN HE LOOKS.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

This means: THERE IS SOME ----- IN EVERY BAD EVENT.

Hold your horses.

This means: ----- A MOMENT.

She is down in the dumps.

This means: SHE IS -----

He couldn't keep a straight face.

This means: HE COULDN'T KEEP HIS FACE -----

WORDS: good, clumsy, kinder, optimistic, serious, depressed, wait.

Comment: Task 1 is best done individually. In Task 2 the opportunity is
provided for pair work in the multilingual class. Afterwards results can be compared in plenum concerning those idioms, which are comprehensible when "translated" into English from various.

Task: Express the underlined sections of the following text with
language which expresses the same meaning more or less.

Example: I was feeling a bit down in the dumps - I was feeling a bit depressed

I was feeling a bit down in the dumps because it was raining cats and dogs, so I went to see Bill. Bill drinks like a fish because his work drives him up the wall. He is an EFL teacher. But he would never leave you in the lurch. Today I found him like a cat on hot bricks because he was bored. We decided to kill two birds with one stone by going to the pub and the launderette. We had a bone to pick with the barman in any case because he had forgotten to reserve the dartboard for us the previous day. We decided that not to go to the pub in protest would be just cutting off our noses to spite our faces. We did not want to make a mountain out of a molehill either.

Comment: This exercise is best done in groups. Learners should be encouraged to use the context for meaning clues rather than puzzling over the surface meaning of the idiomatic units devoid of context. The passage has been deliberately contrived to provide lots of semantic clues: for example, if it is raining one tends to feel depressed rather than elated, and one is more likely to feel depressed if it is raining heavily rather than lightly. Again, the "two" birds with one stone are picked up by the two nouns "pub" and "launderette". For this reason, another approach to the exercise would be for the teacher to take the class through the reasoning processes by which meaning may be inferred from context by paying attention to anaphoric, cataphoric and exophoric reference.

Task 1): Arrange these proverbial expressions into pairs of opposite (or at least "near opposite"!) meaning:

1) No man is an island

2) Necessity is the mother of invention

3) Spend and God will send

4) The more, the merrier

5) We are ships that pass by night

6) He who hesitates is lost

7) You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

8) Many hands make light work

9) Too many cooks spoil the broth

10) Fools seldom differ

11) Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise

12) A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

13) Look before you leap

14) Great minds think alike

15) Two's company, three's a crowd

16) A man's reach should exceed his grasp

17) Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves

18) We can't go through life with our heads buried in the sand

(Answers are: 1 & 5, 2 & 7, 3 & 17, 4 & 15, 6 & 13, 8 & 9, 10 & 14, 11 & 18, 12 & 16)

Task 2): For each of the following two proverbs find a proverb in the
above list which is very similar to it in meaning?

19) Faint heart never won fair maid

20) Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

(Answers are: 19 & 16, 20 & 13)

Comment: This exercise is again best done in small groups or pairs. Learners should be encouraged to look for "easy" pairs first, rather than going through the list one by one. Sometimes the lexical items are clues to the contrasting pairs (e.g. 1 & 5, where "ship" and "island" function as mutual clues and cues). The exercise can be made less demanding by the teacher prompting and helping the learners in this way. Sometimes the lexical link is not quite so obvious, but nevertheless can be uncovered (e.g. 4 & 15, where "two, three" cue "more"). Note, how "fools" in 10 contrasts with "great minds" in 14, whereas within 20 the contrast is between "fools" and "angels", a contrast which may not be at all obvious to all learners, involving as it does what Leech calls "historical meaning" of the word "angel". Learners should be encouraged to puzzle over this and access their world knowledge, but the teacher must ultimately be prepared to provide elucidation. It is less important how many of the pairs learners get right than that they get to grips with the detailed semantics of these proverbial expressions, becoming conscious of both literal surface meaning of the individual parts and the total metaphorical meaning of the expression. In this respect reference to how L1 expresses the same ideas may be helpful. A tolerant attitude to some "second best solutions" should be adopted by the teacher. For instance, 1 and 18 could also go together as opposites, and this solution is rejected only because 11 and 5 form a poor pair of opposites. This exercise can be used as a point of departure for discussion in various directions, and has certainly been far from exhausted when the tasks listed above have been done. The exercise thus provides a lead-in to these literary texts, excerpts from which could be read to show how the expression was first used. Experience proves that if such expressions are not to go in one ear and out the other, then intensive work of this nature is necessary. It is interesting to uncover the basic image underlying these expressions which in some cases is not obvious, for example, the ostrich in 18, the metaphorical force of "mother" and the sense of "invention" (i.e. "initiative", "inventiveness") in 2.

I would like to offer one final exercise to show how the metaphor approach towards idiomatic language may be extended to teaching vocabulary more generally, not only to firmly fixed idioms. The point I wish to make is that certain lexical fields can be applied to various contexts in a way which is not always realised. It is in this way that words acquire a range of meaning, even if the proficient language user is not aware of this, precisely because the given non-linguistic context already delimits his or her meaning expectations for various lexical items. Situational and communicative approaches to language teaching often stop short of showing how vocabulary learned for a particular context can be reapplied in others, although this is what is continually being done in language use, for example, as mentioned above, when the economy is discussed in terms of the lexis of sickness and health.

The following example exercise would be intended as a follow-up to a comprehension passage done in the previous lesson and seeks to activate the slumbering vocabulary recently encountered. It takes the vocabulary of emotion as used in a passage from a novel dealing with the death of a young boy, and places it in a very different context, namely a football match. Cognitive effort is thus required by the learners to lift vocabulary out of one context, perceive its semantic characteristics and apply it appropriately in another context. Below is a condensed version of the comprehension passage.

Comprehension Passage to precede Exercise E

It was about three weeks after my little brother had died. Barely were we all sitting together in the living room when my mother and aunts began talking about Edward. At first their voices were subdued, but gradually they rose as the women became more and more excited, and the words came flooding out. "Yes," cried my Aunt Lucy and my mother in chorus. He was too good to stay with us, too good. He was a saint!" Carried away by their own emotion, they became almost ecstatic in their exaggerated utterances. I sat there very quiet and afraid, I too was carried away by the emotion; I felt feverish and my eyes grew moist. My father was perfectly still. Once in a while I glanced at him. He looked very upset and he didn’t join in the conversation. I knew there was going to be an incident. The tension mounted. Suddenly he rose to his feet. His eyes flashed violently.

"Stop it," he said, and real anger was in his voice. "Stop talking about him like that. He wasn't a saint; he was just an ordinary boy, guilty of wrong like anyone else, and I won't have you talk about him like that." The underlined words represent those that will be required in the following exercise. To what extent the teacher would single these out for pupils and focus attention on them is up to him or her and the level and ability of the class in question. Of course, there are other vocabulary items pertaining to emotion in the passage (e.g. "moist", "flashed", which it has not been possible to incorporate into the exercise. This is in the nature of things if the following contrived passage is to be both short and reasonably natural.

Task 1): Fill in the blanks in the passage below with the underlined words and phrases from the passage above. Use each word or phrase once only. You may change the morphological form of words (e.g. tense and aspect of verbs, number of nouns) or the grammatical class (e.g. you may make a noun from a verb or an adjective from an adverb etc.).

(The passage is presented below with the blanks completed)

Once in a while I go to see a football match. Last Saturday I joined the thousands of fans flooding into St. James's Park to watch Newcastle United play Leeds United. I arrived two minutes before kick-off, so I was barely in time. The first few minutes of play were rather subdued, but then the tension mounted, the crowd cried out in chorus, and, carried away by the emotion, I joined in. Soon Newcastle was feverishly attacking the Leeds goal. The Newcastle fans became almost ecstatic when their team scored. However, the goal was disallowed. This upset the Newcastle fans, who believed the referee had been guilty of showing favoritism, and there were some violent crowd incidents as angry fans ran onto the pitch.

Comment: As a further exercise for an advanced class learners could be asked to continue the football passage for themselves, trying to use some more vocabulary items from the original passage.

Alternatively they could be asked to paraphrase the vocabulary items used for both passages as follows: half the class would paraphrase the vocabulary as used in the original comprehension passage, and half as used in the football passage. This will underline for learners how the same words actually mean very different things in the two passages, but that there is a unifying common thread of meaning between them in the two contexts; For example, "upset" in the original passage means something like "deeply grieved", "near to tears with grief", "sad and angry". In the football passage it means (as a verb) "to annoy", "to irritate", "to exasperate". Note also the difference between "to feverishly attack a goal" and "to feel feverish", between a "violent incident" and "eyes flashed violently". Learners should be alerted to the processes of metaphor and metonymy at work here, for these are the processes by means of which the proficient language user finds words
for thought, and which we as teachers usually expect our learners.

Using the list of idiomatic expressions given below

a) make up a story;

b) make up dialogs.

Try to use as much idiomatic expressions as possible.

to be in a bind box;

to keep one’s eyes peeled;

to go at it hammer and tongues;

to lose one’s temper;

to take it on the chin;

Other articles