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How to learn English idioms and is it necessary to learn them

At any level of knowledge of the language, it is very difficult to learn English idioms. The point here is both in cultural differences, and in the apparent strangeness of these expressions. However, the main reason is the lack of knowledge of special techniques that facilitate their study. Let's find out if you need to learn idioms and how to memorize them quickly and for a long time.

Recall that an idiom or phraseology is a vivid expression that cannot be translated verbatim without losing its meaning. It is the impossibility of direct translation that makes idioms difficult to learn. The question arises: "Do I need to learn English idioms? It may be possible to do without them?»

Of course, I really want to hear the answer:"You don't have to learn idioms, because you can always replace them with other words, paraphrase a sentence." However, in fact, it turns out that it is quite difficult to do without idioms. You can really correct your own speech, but it is difficult to understand someone else's, and sometimes even impossible, without knowing such phrases. The fact is that idioms are often used not only in works of fiction, but also in the ordinary oral speech of the English. These expressions make speech lively, vivid, and accurate. Therefore, if you want to know English at a fairly high level and speak like a native speaker, you need to take the time to study phraseological units. In addition, idioms give us an idea of the way of thinking, the culture of English-speaking citizens, their mentality.

How to learn English idioms correctly

Of course, it is much easier to learn ordinary English words than idioms, especially if you use the recommendations from the article "10 useful tips that will help you increase your vocabulary". However, idioms are not so terrible as they are painted. We offer you a few simple techniques that will help you learn idioms faster and fix them in your memory.

  • 1. Learn idioms by breaking them down by topic

If you decided to learn a few idioms, it is best to choose a group of expressions one subject, for example: on food, clothing, transport, etc. Because when we want to expand the vocabulary, too, take a group of words from one topic — so remember information much easier.

  • 2. Find analogies in your native language

All English idioms can be divided into two types:

  1. Easy to learn, as they are similar to the expression in our native language. An example of such an idiom is "as poor as a church mouse" — "poor as a church mouse". We also use this phraseology in the same sense. So you only need to remember that there is an English equivalent of the famous Russian expression.
  2. More difficult to learn, as they do not have similar analogues in the Russian language. For example, "dog and pony show" — "broken record". As you can see, the Russian and English idioms are very different. Many linguists suggest memorizing such expressions using the mnemonic method: imagine a broken plate with a pony and a dog drawn on it. Don't like mnemonics? Then read the tips below.
  • 3. Learn English idioms in context

We have already said that new words are best learned in context. Idioms without context do not learn at all. You need to understand and feel HOW and WHEN it is appropriate to use a particular expression. So don't waste time studying the expression itself without examples.

  • 4. Find live usage examples

To get a better feel for when to use a particular idiom, use the following technique. Type the idiom in the Google search bar (it is better to use the expression in quotation marks) and see the first 10-20 results of the search results. You will see natural modern use cases of the studied expression. The idiom may come from the mouth of a politician or a TV star, or it may be found in a magazine article or a scientific opus — it will be useful to get acquainted with all the examples of its use.

  • 5. Come up with your own examples of using the idiom

After you have learned the idiom in context, come up with your own examples of its use. Make up a few sentences or a small text. At the same time, it is better to "try on" the idiom for yourself: speak in the first person. Write down sentences with idioms to memorize the spelling of the phrase and use mechanical memory.

  • 6. Test your knowledge

The tests will help you identify gaps in your knowledge.

  • 7. Learn the history of the idiom

Some idioms seem illogical and incomprehensible to non-English-speaking students. Hence, there are difficulties with memorization. For example, why is a white elephant — an expensive unnecessary and inconvenient thing"? What does an elephant, and even a white one, have to do with it? Everything will become logical and understandable when you read the interesting history of the origin of this idiom.

  • 8. Watch special videos

The video series will be a great help for learning idioms, because thanks to it, there are associative connections of certain expressions and visual images.

  • 9. Use useful apps

Almost everyone has a smartphone, so it is impossible not to mention the wonderful applications that make it easier to learn English idioms.

  • 10. Use idioms in speech.  

So that your knowledge does not disappear without a trace in a month or two, actively apply it in practice. Find an interlocutor and talk to them in English, building sentences in such a way as to use the learned idioms in speech. So you will fix the passed material in memory.

Әл-Фараби атындағы ҚазҰУ профессоры, доцент Жанатаев Данат Жанатайұлы Әл-Фараби атындағы ҚазҰУ магистранты Амангелді Нұржауған


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