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Explaining idioms to intermediate/upper levels
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1373
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:11 pm    Post subject: Explaining idioms to intermediate/upper levels Reply with quote

How would you explain these idioms to intermediate/ upper level students using real life examples without becoming too convoluted?

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!"

"Out of the frying pan and into the fire!"

"Better late than never!"

"My way or the highway!"
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally wouldn't bother.
These are not ubiquitous in common communications these days, nor are they business or field specific. I'd choose something they are more likely to actually encounter and need to understand and/or respond to.
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

true enough... not necessarily about teaching these idioms in the class, but rather students coming to me and asking what they mean or how they are applied to real life. Just curious as to how you 'pros' would respond...more about coming up with a succinct response.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Then, I'd ask them exactly in what context they heard them, and ask them to puzzle out approximately what they think they mean.
I'd fill in any gaps after they gave it their best shot.

It would be more realistic to teach them strategies for making educated guesses when they encounter such language items than to try to teach a list of idioms which they are unlikely to ever encounter on a regular basis, or to need to produce.

By the way, the first two idioms you quote sound to me like language that would most likely be produced by older English speakers - I can 't really imagine teenagers or young adults coming out with such things.

I recall a Czech friend a decade ago telling us about being taught the phrase 'to cut a rug' by his English teacher. He couldn't wait to use his cool new idiom Laughing . We discouraged him.
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1373
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 wrote:
Then, I'd ask them exactly in what context they heard them, and ask them to puzzle out approximately what they think they mean.
I'd fill in any gaps after they gave it their best shot.

Yes, I have used this approach, but found students were still stumped.

It would be more realistic to teach them strategies for making educated guesses when they encounter such language items than to try to teach a list of idioms which they are unlikely to ever encounter on a regular basis, or to need to produce.

Again, have found students very stubborn or reluctant to do this.

By the way, the first two idioms you quote sound to me like language that would most likely be produced by older English speakers - I can 't really imagine teenagers or young adults coming out with such things.

Yes, ...I had asked where they heard these phrases...some from other students and on the internet...some were just inquisitive nerds Laughing

I recall a Czech friend a decade ago telling us about being taught the phrase 'to cut a rug' by his English teacher. He couldn't wait to use his cool new idiom Laughing . We discouraged him.


Hmmm... Rolling Eyes well 'that's a bust!'
Then...humor me with your best shot... providing a real life example Laughing
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spiral78



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Then, I'd ask them exactly in what context they heard them, and ask them to puzzle out approximately what they think they mean.
I'd fill in any gaps after they gave it their best shot.

Yes, I have used this approach, but found students were still stumped



Quote:
Again, have found students very stubborn or reluctant to do this


Give them a choice of strategic guessing practice as versus a ten-page list of idioms to memorize. It'll work. Well, maybe.

Again, I frankly find this sort of thing a waste of time.

Neither they nor their teacher should really need to worry whether they understand every idiom they hear in a film or a song or wherever. This lack of direct relevance likely explains the low motivation they have to learn either the idioms or the strategies to guess their meanings closely enough for understanding.
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Denim-Maniac



Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1238

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really like Spiral's answer ... they aren't important and students should guess by context. And surely they wouldn't need much more explaining? They are quite simple examples ...

And then I note you are in Riyadh.

I've never had Saudi students, but I have a colleague who has done 1-1s with Saudi students who want speaking practice. My colleague says they say as little as possible, using the shortest answers possible.

Then my colleague has said 'Come on, you really need to use this as an example to speak and try to use your English'

And they reply,

'Teacher, student, animals, chocolate, tigers, already, just, yet, football, swmming apples banana fruit and if when how who what why the an a whenever answer speak listen'.

Sounds like you may have the same group of students. Difficult ones.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
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Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Denim-Maniac,

That's odd because in my experience of teaching Saudi students often the hard part is getting them to shut up Very Happy

Now, Japanese and Korean students, well, getting them to speak can be like pulling teeth (to use an idiom.)

Regards,
John
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9051
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would be hard to teach any of the idiom examples off the cuff, as it were. If one must teach idioms at all, then a simple gloss is usually a simple and effective way. For example, design a work sheet where the idioms are listed on one side, and one the other write paraphrases. Cut them up and have the class try to match them up. Try to use a parallel construction in the paraphrasing as an extra clue for the learners.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire! - - - - Going from a bad situation to an even worse one.

My way or the highway - - - - Agree with my ideas or go away from me.


Ultimately, idioms tend to be much more popular with teachers than with learners. Likewise for obscure slang terms. If students are coming up to you and asking about these, well and good. Maybe direct them to some sort of idiom resource book, such as:

http://www.cambridge.org/gb/elt/catalogue/subject/project/item5629541/English-Idioms-in-Use-Advanced/?site_locale=en_GB

Personally, I'd prefer to teach them famous Leninist or Marxist quotations:

If the writer of these lines has succeeded in providing some material for clarifying these problems, he may regard his labours as not having been fruitless.
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
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Location: KSA

PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
It would be hard to teach any of the idiom examples off the cuff, as it were. If one must teach idioms at all, then a simple gloss is usually a simple and effective way. For example, design a work sheet where the idioms are listed on one side, and one the other write paraphrases. Cut them up and have the class try to match them up. Try to use a parallel construction in the paraphrasing as an extra clue for the learners.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire! - - - - Going from a bad situation to an even worse one.

My way or the highway - - - - Agree with my ideas or go away from me.


Ultimately, idioms tend to be much more popular with teachers than with learners. Likewise for obscure slang terms. If students are coming up to you and asking about these, well and good. Maybe direct them to some sort of idiom resource book, such as:

http://www.cambridge.org/gb/elt/catalogue/subject/project/item5629541/English-Idioms-in-Use-Advanced/?site_locale=en_GB

Personally, I'd prefer to teach them famous Leninist or Marxist quotations:

If the writer of these lines has succeeded in providing some material for clarifying these problems, he may regard his labours as not having been fruitless.


Thanks...all the suggestions are good ones...I don't spend much time on idioms per say, but they do come up everyonce in awhile. As spiral78 suggests, I do try to turn it back on to the student and try to get them to make meaningful guesses...work through it. However, there are some idioms that would be impossible to guess as the words have no direct link what so ever to the meaning. Which brings me to...
Sasadroogie's idea of matching idiom and meaning...challenging...would work as a cool- fun activity as long as meanings are succinct also enourages some thinking. Especially if activity has a time limit and groups worked in competition...they love to compete, the paradox here is that they also help the competition. Cheating is a natural occurance even to the detriment of their own group...they just can't help themselves Laughing

I think some students believe if they use -incorpororate idioms into their speech, then they are in some way viewed more as a native English speaker. Rolling Eyes
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I think some students believe if they use -incorpororate idioms into their speech, then they are in some way viewed more as a native English speaker.


In fact, it's a rare non-native speaker who can use idioms or second-level (higher) slang without sounding unnatural.

Further, there is a school of thought which is becoming quite wide-spread; that the goal of 'sounding like a native speaker,' besides being unrealistic, is simply unnecessary and does not reflect the reality of English language usage contexts in many respects.

The better goal is probably something like 'being able to communicate clearly in English with both native and non-native speakers of the language.'

Bearing in mind that already, the percentage of non-native speakers using the English language in business, education, and other areas is very high - and growing exponentially - the people our students (outside of immigrants to Anglophone countries) will be speaking to are more likely NOT to be native speakers of English anyway.

It's easy to remind students of this when they go off on unproductive tangents.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Straight from the horse's mouth that. It may go over the crockery, but it wasn't from the ground he licked it. Eh?!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Idioms can be obscure even from one English-speaking country to the next... I can't think of any Canadian idioms off-hand, but I am sure they exist and I'm sure they are obscure Very Happy
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
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Location: KSA

PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
Straight from the horse's mouth that. It may go over the crockery, but it wasn't from the ground he licked it. Eh?!


Laughing Laughing never fail to disappoint! ^^^

All good points Spiral...

The folks from Newfoundland have some fairly unique yet baffling idioms. Infact alot of the times what spills forth is just a continuous string of idioms...especially the rural folks when they get a belly full of 'Screech' in'em.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1212

PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I don't go out of my way to teach idioms, but they do crop up now and again. Students also pick up a fair amount of idiomatic language from MTV or from lyrics etc, and ask me the meaning.

What do you all feel about phrasal verbs? These are often fiendishly difficult for students, yet they crop up all the time - including in Cambridge exams which is what I often prepare students for.
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