Idioms are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they make our message more powerful and enhance the effect; on the other hand, they might be hard to understand and misleading, a kind of red herring.
Learning idioms in English is a never ending process.
However, even if you could learned them all, it would not benefit you, because the correct usage is the key here.
We suggest another approach. Instead of learning idioms from a list – learn how to understand them from the context, how to notice and interpret the clues. At the same time, learn the context in this any particular idiom can be used.
Here are some glimpses from the Art of Using Idioms session.
There are over 25,000 idioms in English. There is no way to learn them all. Instead, one should understand how idioms work. Getting to grips with them requires some theoretical insights into language. It was our starting point.
a) how the idioms are created, which helps us to figure out how to find the clues to unknown ones;
b) why idioms exist, thus releasing the necessity to work on them;
c) why idioms are difficult and which care should be taken to ensure the proper usage of them,
Can you guess what we are talking about here? Write a caption for this picture in the comments.
Practicing English idioms in ICAN English Speaking Club was fun and challenging at the same time.
Can you figure out the meaning of " a red herring" idiom from the context? Write your version and your reasoning in the comments. No cheating! You will check it later.
Here are four rules to remember:
Idioms are figures of speech – use them to make your talk more expressive;
Idioms are difficult to grasp – use them with care;
Idioms from your culture are NOT transparent for people of other cultures – do NOT translate them; use an equivalent instead;
If you wish to use an idiom from your culture, explain what it means.
The interactive theoretical part of the ICAN Club session led to practice. The task was to demonstrate how to use an idiom in a conversation. Everyone had a chance to speak. It was a hybrid of role-play and presentation – fun to see.
Apart from what you can see in these pictures, there was a very pleasant small talk and a discussion of how to increase the effectiveness of learning English autonomously.
The bottom line is: use idioms with care, and your communication skills will get to the next level.