Idioms in teaching English for social interaction preparation

Idioms proved their importance and effectiveness as very useful units of teaching different aspects of foreign language – speaking, reading, translating, listening to, being bright lexical means of Socio-Drama for Social Interaction.

Аннотация статьи
advanced level functional activity
nonnative speaker of English
traditional sayings
pedagogical applications
Ключевые слова

When we say about education today we can mention a lot of different aspects being very important to be mentioned. Even more – very important to be described in details having attention to aspects of social living and interaction directly. Understanding and recognizing this fact denotes adaptation in it as one more theoretical theme for practical experience it in the process of teaching. Multicultural character of the compound material process’ dictates the teachers the necessity of possessing the information concerning idiomatic communication in different cultures, habits, skills, manner of thinking and behavior.

When we say about using idioms in foreign language teaching, first of all we mean the sphere of education we may call as “Problem-Posing Education”. It is right, because where are problems, there are solutions. The author- father of the method was Paolo Freire, who, with a team of scientists supported his idea approbated his scientific finding (as a discovery!) successfully. Due to the theory of a scientist, problem-posing education “extracts a concern for the real-life situation of the learners as well as a perception of the student as decision maker” [1, p. 123]. The very problem is not simple, because bases on a real life faced by the learners in their daily living. They are no always recognized, understood rightly, because the intellectual, emotional and psychological level of personal development of those involved in the process of communication is different, even opposite sometimes… The role of a teacher is in support and real help to identify a problem as the source of content for effective communication in a stable recognition of rightness (or not) in behavior of all people involved in the process of communication. Own behavior and attention to a situation is the so called “learners view”, directly relating to their own lives. And this is the very hard moment of personal existence’ evaluation.

Practice demonstrated effective results in the foreign language classes as the target language, able analyze and discrete the most informative learning units. The winners were Idioms. Idioms, able to prepare students for social interaction. Because there are nothing more illustrative than idioms due to concrete life situations to overcome, to estimate, to analyze, and to use in order to make the very life more understandable for individual. Of course, all lexical units are effective in teaching foreign language, but Idioms live in the sphere of cross-disciplinary approaches, functional-notional syllabuses, in the field of presentation counseling learning as a stimulus-response sequence of knowledge life the students have been preparing for win.

Guidelines for curriculum in understanding idioms and requiring skills of using them correctly and effectively is necessary for teachers ready to involve idioms almost in everyday lessons’ plan as the “mottos of the day”, highly estimated by students. The suggestions able help teachers plan learning activities with idioms teaching may be like these: 1. Take into account appropriate grade levels (students’ age and educational language program in connection with problematic situations they are able to understand); 2. The students need constantly increasing amount of instructions in reading and explanation idioms due to real situation of school and parenting sphere of communication; 3. To develop classroom speaking as deep understanding skills, it is obligatory need opportunities to participate in small group discussions firstly, and then- in two command (for example) [2, p. 91]. The students demonstrate their understanding idioms while presenting oral reports on situation from literature or their own life, respond adequately to teacher questioning. The process of learning idioms in structure of overcoming social obstacles in understanding and preliminary first experience (children” kindergarten”, “yard”, “school” groups, family relations, adaptation to social interaction outside family, school, University spheres – society with its social interaction as an engine of the adult communication.

What shall teachers start with in order to be mostly effective with idioms as secrets of communication, good and bad emotions, right and wrong decisions (solutions), law or high spirit (mood), winners’ or failures performance, and so on? Let us start with simplest scheme of understanding the complicated context of the idioms -their belonging to the constantly used two main verbs of all dictionaries probably all over the world: “do” and “make” [3, p. 59].

So, we DO housework; business; work; the washing up; an exam; the shopping; do nothing; homework. We DO (someone a favour; a test; the cooking; exercises; (someone) good; an experiment; damage.

We MAKE money; an excuse; a mess; the bed; a cake; a wish; a complaint; a phone call. We MAKE a mistake; a noise; a decision; fun of someone; a fool of oneself; an appointment; friends; a discovery. In the process of deciding whether the sentences with idioms, having attention to the verbs “do” or “make” due to two points (totally correct), one point (minor error), or no points (wrong) we may do the process of understanding the meaning of the idioms more simple and short.

The methods of teaching idioms are to help to prevent the dumbest mistakes smart people make in the reality of their living. For teachers the idioms serves as a kind of jumping-off place for arousing linguistic curiosity, adding a note of variety and language enrichment. Functional Activity is extremely effective due to possibility of giving students an opportunity to use the idioms in context with some degree of realism, so useful for understanding the life without dumbest mistakes.

In order to make the results of learning idioms productive we have penetrated through many sources, – articles, books, letters, etc. – on illustrated American idioms with illustrated (indeed!) examples with special tasks for the students.

There are some of them in a structure of learning:


Definition: Awkward, especially with one’s hands; clumsy

Illustrative sentences

“Walter tried to fix the broken table but couldn’t. He was all thumbs.”

(Paraphrase: He had trouble fixing the table because he was awkward with his hands.

Also: “When it comes to using a hammer and saw, I’m all thumbs.”

(Paraphrase: “I am quite clumsy with a hammer and saw.”)

Functional activity: A teacher asks students to give examples of skills in which they are all thumbs.


Definition 1: To get possession of

Illustrative sentences

“Somehow they got hold of some dynamite and blue up the bridge.

(Paraphrase: They got possession of some dynamite.)

Also: “Don’t let the baby get hold of that medicine! It might make him sick.

(Paraphrase: Don’t allow the baby to get his hands on the medicine.)

Related expression

Get (lay)one’s hands on= To get possession of

Definition 2: To find a person in order to speak to him

Illustrative sentences

“I needed to talk to Dr. Taylor, but I couldn’t get hold on him.”

(Paraphrase: I couldn’t find Dr.Taylor so I could talk to him.)

“Fred spent several hours on the phone trying to get hold on a mechanic to fix his car.”

(Paraphrase: He had a hard time finding a mechanic.)

Related expression

Get in touch with = To reach someone to talk with him.

In the frame of Functional Activity a teacher asks students to prepare short dialogues of the following situation, using the idiom or related expressions.

“You are sitting in your living room. AS you look out the window, you see your cat trying to get a baby bird in a tree. You tell your son to prevent the cat’s doing so.” [4, p. 1, 24].

3. Bringing Home the Bacon


Judy: Today I am under the weather.

Ann: Play hooky. I won’t spill the beans.

Judy: I can’t. I’m swamped with work. My job is no picnic.

Ann: Well, hang in there. In the long run, you’ll be sitting pretty.

Judy: I hope so. I have to bring home the bacon.


under the weather

play hooky

spill the beans


no picnic

hang in there

in the long run

sitting pretty

bring home the bacon

adj.) not feeling well

v.) stay away from school or work without permis

v.) tell a secret, inform

adj.) overwhelmed

adj.) not pleasant

v.) be patient, wait

adj.) in the end, as a result

adj.) in a favorable situation

v.) earn the family’s income [5, p.13].

English as a Language of Wider communication gives great opportunities of using different forms and methods of an educational process’ optimization on the base of some general comments on the categories of integrative teachers and students activity, oriented to intellect and personal common sense, assigned for prolonged development.” Nothing is just coincidence, every tree in life’s garden bears significance.” (Indian wisdom).

Текст статьи
  1. Long M.H., Richards J.C. Methology in TESOL. A book of reading.the USA.
  2. Long M.H., Richards J.C. Methology in TESOL. A book of reading.
  3. Азаренкова М.И. Информационные технологии в аспектном подходе к углубленному изучению иностранного языка в военном техническом вузе // Приоритетные направления повышения качества подготовки военных специалистов технического обеспечения. - Омск, 2019, С.59.
  4. Illustrated American idioms. Washington D.C., 1994.
  5. Gaines B.K. Idiomatic American English. Tokyo, New York, 1986.
Список литературы