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Why language-learners should study idioms

What is an idiom?

idiom
/ˈɪdɪəm/
noun: idiom; plural noun: idioms

  1. a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light ).
    synonyms: expression, idiomatic expression, turn of phrase, set phrase, fixed expression, phrase; formallocution
    “‘Far out,’ she replied, using a rather dated idiom”
    a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people.
    “he had a feeling for phrase and idiom”
    synonyms: language, mode of expression, style of speech, speech, talk, -speak, way/manner of speaking, usage, phraseology, phrasing, choice of words, vocabulary, parlance, tongue, vernacular, jargon, patter, argot, patois, cant; More
    the dialect of a people or part of a country.
  2. a characteristic mode of expression in music or art.
    “they were both working in a neo-impressionist idiom”

Origin: late 16th century: from French idiome, or via late Latin from Greek idiōma ‘private property, peculiar phraseology’, from idiousthai ‘make one’s own’, from idios ‘own, private’.

 

The idiom – an excellent form of expression

Essentially, an idiom is a formulaic or figurative phrase that intends to express sentiments through its metaphorical meaning, that is different from the literal meaning of its words. For instance, “out of the frying pan and into the fire” isn’t supposed to be taken literally; it conveys a state of going from a difficult situation to a far more difficult and hellish situation.

Idioms allow us to express ourselves in ways which are not possible with simple phrases. There is something about saying “it’s raining cats and dogs” instead of “it’s raining pretty hard”. It’s more colourful, more expressive and and makes it easier to visualize the effect that the rain produced.

English speakers are very much aware of various idioms in the English language, but there are of course delightful idioms in other languages as well, and if anyone interested in mastering a new language, getting a grip on its idioms is one of the best things that you can do for your learning experience. However, learning a new language is hard enough as it is. Of course if you want to be a translator a high level of language understanding is essential. But why should anyone else bother to delve deeper into nuance by studying the idioms? Let us look at a few top reasons as to why we should take up this burdensome task.

 

It makes you more expressive in that language

In case this wasn’t already clear enough, idioms are amazing devices because they allow you to put in a lot more weight and influence in your statements, and that allows you to have a greater effect on people when you converse with them in any language. If you are the kind of person who wants to avoid stale conversations and make them as vibrant as possible, it will make sense for you to start brushing up on your idioms.

 

You get to be an artist in that language

What happens when you become an expert at the expression in a language? Well, you can share your thoughts with the whole world in that particular language as a writer, poet or musician. Idioms make up a good chunk of these art forms, therefore, studying them allows you to refine them and be much better in them.

 

You get a new job!

Unsurprisingly, translators are always in demand, and if nothing else, learning the idioms in a language will make you more proficient in translation. If you can nail these difficult phrases, you can surely comprehend and explain the language in a much better way. You can translate entire works of art such as novels and songs and preserve their idiomatic phrases instead of substituting them with something simpler. 

So there you have it; three fine reasons why people are intrigued and delighted by idioms, and why you should be too!

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