Hi, this is English Teacher Fred. Welcome to my online classroom. I’m in Vietnam right now. It’s a four day weekend, a holiday weekend. So I have a lot of free time, sitting here at my desk making videos and talking to students on Skype. Come by my website, it’s called EnglishTeacherFred.com.
I thought I would talk about, right now, the question, “What is an idiom?” Because I’ve been doing a lot of videos about phrasal verbs and idioms, so I thought maybe I should talk about what an idiom is and whey are they important.
It’s very important to learn many, many idioms because native speakers, people who speak a language as a first language, they use phrasal verbs and idioms all the time. In any language, every language; it’s hard for a native speaker to speak two or three sentences without using an idiom. They use them all the time. It makes the speech more interesting, more colorful. If you didn’t use very many phrasal verbs and idioms, the speech sounds very formal and dry and not interesting.
Native speakers use them all the time so it’s important to know many idioms in order to understand native speakers when they speak and to speak like a native speaker.
But there are no rules for idioms. They’re just often kind of strange and funny and sometimes you can understand the meaning, why somebody would say that, but sometimes there’s just no explanation. So the only way to learn them is to just memorize them. Try to remember them. There’s no rule. It’s not like grammar. With grammar you have certain rules to apply. When you have a new sentence you use the same rule for every sentence. But with idioms it’s just sort of crazy language and people say what they say- who know why.
Can you hear? It’s kind of noisy. Somebody just went by my window selling eggs. Selling boiled eggs for people to eat. Okay, where was I?
Idioms! Yes! Let’s talk about idioms. What is an idiom? They’re very important; what are they?
Well, the thing to listen for, the thing to look for with idioms is: they always have two meanings. There’s always a meaning that is the literal meaning, and then the other meaning which is the idiomatic meaning.
To show you what I mean, I’ll give you an example. An example of an idiom from food is “a piece of cake”. You know, cake, like birthday cake? A piece of cake. So this phrase, a piece of cake, has two meanings. One meaning is, you have a plate and on the plate is the piece of cake and you eat the cake, right? A piece of cake.
But there’s also another meaning which is the idiom. In English this idiom, a piece of cake, means: very easy. If something is a piece of cake, it’s very easy.
So people might say, “Learning English is a piece of cake!” But if they said that, it wouldn’t really be true, right? Learning English is difficult. Learning any second language is difficult. It’s not a piece of cake. So I’m just joking if I say, “Learning English is a piece of cake.”
What is a piece of cake? Oh, I don’t know. Just anything very easy is a piece of cake. “It’s a piece of cake to do that.” To learn how to turn on your computer. “Oh- piece of cake! You just press the button, you know? It’s easy; it’s a piece of cake.”
So it has two meanings. Cake and very easy. All idioms are like that. Sometimes it can help you learn the idiom if you can learn both the meanings. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the real meaning is; it’s just a strange sentence.
How about another example. Here’s an idiom from colors. If something is out of the blue. If something comes out of the blue, what does it mean? Blue- the color blue- out of the blue. If something comes “out of the blue” it means it’s totally unexpected. It’s a complete surprise. “The letter came out of the blue. It was a total surprise.”
A way to understand this idiom might be if you think about the sky; the sky is blue. So if something comes out of the blue it’s like from the sky. It’s just from nowhere. I don’t know- where did it come from? It came from the sky; I don’t know! I didn’t expect it. It was completely unexpected.
Okay, maybe that’s enough for now. I hope you come by my website: EnglishTeacherFred.com. I’m a professional English teacher. I’ve been teaching English in Vietnam since 2001- that’s over 10 years.
Right now I have the… I don’t know if you can hear, maybe you can’t hear but there’s the egg seller over there and the roosters in my neighbor’s yard over there. It’s pretty noisy! Okay, have a nice day. Bye-bye.