Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why are Idioms Important?

Many of my advanced ESL students specifically want to improve their speaking skills. Some of them say that although they have been living in the U.S. for several years, they are still unable to understand what people are saying. For example, in a circle of colleagues, they notice that when native English speakers speak directly to them, they speak differently than when they speak to other native English speakers in the same circle. And the student is unable to follow what they are saying to each other.

I’ve observed that one of the reasons ESL learners have trouble in group conversations is that the native English speakers frequently use idioms, aphorisms, phrasal verbs, and colloquialisms. When native English speakers use these, the second language learner is at a loss. English has so many rules that students have learned (and tons more exceptions), but then these rules go out the window when native speakers are talking to one another.

I often encourage (and teach) my students to learn idioms and as many phrasal verbs as they can. This is also my suggestion when students say that they want to increase their vocabulary.

Why are idioms important? Idioms are important for ESL learners so that they can understand what everyone is saying!


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