Monday, June 13, 2011

English Idioms

I think learning idioms is a very important step for the advanced second language learner. They have already learned all the grammar, they have learned a lot of vocabulary, and now they should be on the quest to sound like a native speaker (depending on why they learned their second language!). For me personally, as I study speak German almost everyday now, I know that need to do something to improve it. Although most Germans I meet say my German is good and that I don't need to go to classes for it. I can understand that, all right...I have taken four years of German university lessons, I've lived in Germany for almost two years....I suppose I make myself understood by almost everyone I talk to, even on the phone! But I still feel when I go to shop or a laundry mat and then have long conversations invariable the question will arise "Woher kommst du?" (annnd what country are you from?).
Me: *sigh* ....Canada....
Person: *smile* In Kanada spricht man dann Deutsch??? (Do they speak German in Canada?)
Me: No, I took it at university....
And so on...

So yes, I get frustrated by this, why would all of the Germans that I know well enough to ask the question tell me my German is fine, and then random ones still notice that I am not German!?
Clearly, I haven't learned enough German yet...but after all my education...what is left to learn!?
I bought two different grammar books....I know the grammar....check...
What else?!
At the highschool I work at I walk down the hallways listening to the kids speak....and they speak really fast!... Or do they? Are they just saying words I can't get from a text book!? *revelation!*
My new plan of action is to learn German slang and German idioms, it's surprising how often people use idioms! Or parts of  idioms in normal speech (let's not even get into written language on this one!). In order for a second language learner to really understand and go deeper into the language I think they have to do more than review grammar and talk to native speakers. They should also actively seek out slang words and idioms! Then they will have a better chance of understanding a lot of careless phrases that native speakers toss around!
Well, at least that is what I am going to do for my German...
Since I thought this was such a great idea I decided to make a short list of idioms for one of my English students...she is quite advanced, good accent, can chit chat almost as well as if she were English...the perfect candidate to start learning idioms and using them too!
So I got all of these idioms from this website. I am always surprised by how many idioms there are...I only did ten of the ones that I have head myself saying or have heard others saying. I also chose ten eleven* because our lessons are only 45mins long and she has other things that she likes to chat about!
To start off this discussion we started talking about bad days, and how in English you can "get up on the wrong side of the bed". (Meaning that everything has gone badly since the morning).
Then I showed her this sheet, and after that we discussed if there were any similar idioms in German (of course she had to translate as well as she could into English...we have a strict only English policy!).
 Here is the hand out:

English Idioms

Instructions: Here are some common English idioms! The left hand column has idioms and the right hand column has meanings match up each idiom to it's correct meaning!


1. A chip on the shoulder.
8. To study, especially for a test or exam.
2.Beating around the bush.
4. To irritate and/or annoy very much.
3. Cross your fingers.
6. To become more comfortable in whatever you are doing.

4. Drive someone up the wall.

2. Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.
5. Please excuse my french.
7. To gamble everything you have.

6. Finding your feet.
11. To not agree. To not accept a proposition.
7. Go for broke.
2.Being upset for something that happened in the past.
8. Hit the books.
3. To hope that something happens the way you want it to.
9. If it's not one thing, then it's another.
10. Knuckle tapping on wood in order to avoid some bad luck.

10. Knock on wood.

5. Please forgive me for cussing.

11. No dice.

9. When one thing goes wrong, then another, and another...

Idioms found on
P.S I am beginning to think if I want to actually use this blog I need to learn a bit of html.....oh husband dearest..... *sigh*
P.P.S  Yeah! He fixed the frustrating html :D!!! well...more or less...he fixed the chart lines...then got frustrated with the spacing...maybe one day he will come back....
P.P.P.S After thinking about it, I decided to put the answers just in case! Although these idioms aren't hard most native speakers should be able to guess the correct meanings... 
so I teach English not's ok to make mistakes!

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