Friday, August 9, 2013

Using idioms to teach figurative language

by Derek Spencer

I've always found idioms fascinating. The idea of a bank of figurative statements that an entire culture (by and large) uses to communicate is almost unbelievable when taken at face value.

. . . After writing that sentence, I realized that I used an idiom without even thinking about it. And you understood what I meant, right? Reading "taken at face value" probably didn't slow you down at all, even though the literal meaning of the phrase makes no sense whatsoever. Such is the power of idioms: unless we're looking for them, they sort of merge with the rest of text — our brains tend to translate their meanings automatically.

Of course, every culture has its own idioms, and most idioms cannot be translated word-for-word and still retain their correct meaning. This can make learning another language challenging, especially if you're trying to have a conversation with someone who speaks that language and frequently uses idioms.

Click the link below to visit a cool website you can use to talk to your students about idioms. There's an illustration for each idiom on the site, so your more visual learners might benefit. You could show your students this site as part of a discussion about figurative language, which could be quite fun. If students have never thought about the idioms they use every day, helping them to become more aware might spur them to use more concrete language in their writing. If students want their writing to be clear and easy to read, they should definitely be aware of how they use idioms.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Derek Spencer is a Marketing Communications Associate at Prestwick House.

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