|Idioms, set phrases, proverbs and slang in foreign language learning
Home > Guide > Tips & Tricks > Idioms
Madeleine Albright, when negotiating with former
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, remarked that he spoke ‘idiomatic
English’. In her mind, this seems to be the highest stage of fluency once can
reach. Of course speaking with no accent is nice, but there is just no
substitute for the richness and color idioms bring to the language.
Idioms are used to conjure a vivid
share mental image that sums up a situation under discussion. It emphasizes a
shared conception of an archetypical situation. This is akin to shared memories
amongst relatives or private jokes amongst friends. For instance, you may say
that the train was on time, but if you say that the train was dead on
time, this is a stronger expression.
You need to learn and use idioms as soon as you can.
Idioms are fun, and they are a source of constant amusement as you progress in
your language learning. They are an essential component of functional fluency.
The more you use them, the closer your interlocutors will feel to
Idioms can be very rude. You need to know what speech register they belong to before using them. If a British gentleman is indecisive, you could tell him ‘Fish or cut bait’ but also ‘Shit or get off the pot’. Both are fine idioms of the English language, but they belong to different speech register. Say the wrong one and you’ll get kicked out in no time.
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