English is already confusing enough for English learners with all the grammar rules/exceptions, tricky pronunciation, and countless words that have the same meaning. To make matters worse, Americans really like to use idioms in everyday conversation. But what are idioms? Idioms are phrases for which the meaning doesn’t match the definitions of the individual words. For example, to be "tickled pink" means that you are very pleased. It has nothing to do with tickling anyone or with turning pink. With all the other things there are to learn when studying English, why bother trying to learn any of these phrases?
One of the most obvious benefits to learning American idioms is that they will help you understand more English. They reinforce the fact that many English words have more than one meaning and that not all expressions can be taken literally. Without any knowledge of idioms, directions can be interpreted incorrectly and sarcasm can go totally unnoticed.
Idioms are a fantastic way to build confidence when learning English because you are able to understand (and therefore participate in) more common social situations, such as those taking place around you in a shopping mall or those occurring on television sitcoms. Idioms also have a peculiar way of making you feel like you are fitting into American culture better, since you now have an insider’s understanding of common phrases that wouldn’t be understood or used by speakers of other languages.
Because idiomatic phrases can often stand alone as complete sentences or responses to questions and statements, you can begin using them right away! You don’t necessarily have to figure out how they would fit into a sentence or which situation to use them in (the way you might if you were learning new vocabulary words). This means they don't require as much practice to be used correctly.
We will be hosting a new weekly series of idioms to help you build your own “library” of helpful and amusing phrases! Check back for our first installment later this week.
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