Published 26th March 2018
Idiomatic language is a big part of English. A lot of what we say does not actually mean what we say (!), which means that it’s really important for our students to be able to identify and understand idioms and figurative language. We’ve spoken before about this and we’ve given you a list of a few of what we consider our most useful idioms to learn (and so to teach) but due to the sheer volume of idioms our learners are likely to be exposed to, we thought we’d add a few more to your repertoire. Today we’re going to look at idioms related to language and learning.
Useful idioms to teach in the EFL classroom
To pass with flying colours – to pass a test with the best possible marks
A piece of cake – used to describe something that is very easy to do
To know or learn something off by heart – to be able to recite something, usually a poem or song, from memory
To be a bookworm – someone who loves reading
To learn a lesson – to understand something because of a bad experience
To teach someone a lesson – to punish someone as a way of preventing them from doing something again
How to teach idioms in the EFL classroom
As we said before, it’s best to teach idioms in a related set or in context rather than in an unrelated clump. If you’re discussing education in your coursebook, for example, then you could spend some time looking at these idioms. This is best done at the beginning of a learning unit so that the learners will have opportunities throughout the rest of the unit to put them into use.
Instead of teaching idioms related by topic, such as education, you could also teach idioms which are related by language item. For example, you could teach idioms which incorporate animals:
To let the cat out of the bag – to tell a secret
To be pig-headed – to be stubbo
To go cold turkey – to quit something completely, for example smoking
Wouldn’t hurt a fly – used to describe someone who is not at all aggressive
To be a guinea pig – to be a test subject for something, to be the first person to do or try something
or body parts:
To cost an arm and a leg – to be really expensive
To give someone the cold shoulder – to ignore someone
To play it by ear – to do something without planning
To be a pain in the neck – used to describe someone who is annoying
Behind someone’s back – to do something without someone knowing
Even though these idioms can be used in a range of contexts and situations, they are still connected and can be easy to remember as a group. As with any and all language, once you have focused on the idioms in terms of meaning and form, make sure there is plenty of time for practise and revision activities.