miércoles, 2 de agosto de 2017

Speaking Naturally: Idioms and Collocations

                                                                                                                                                                                                     By Zarela Cruz

Don’t you feel good when your students use idioms and collocations in class? Isn’t it worth to see them making such an effort to find the most accurate expression they are capable of? The big question is: How can students learn them? The answer is easy: by reading and listening to the most language resources they can. Once students start using them, we can be sure that they have grasped cultural aspects and underlying principles of the language since these idioms are usually metaphoric; needless to say, they have a figurative meaning as well. The key is to learn them by chunks, as units of the language, not as separate words.

Let’s start with some collocations:

Why did she burst into tears?

Are you fully aware of the implications of your action?

The Titanic sank on her maiden voyage.

There are many kinds of collocations; among them:

  • verb + adjective:  seems different
  • adjective + noun: excruciating pain
  • noun + noun: a surge of anger
  • noun + verb: lions’ roar
  • verb + noun: commit suicide
  • verb + expression with preposition: burst into tears
  • verb + adverb: wave frantically 

And what about idioms? You can classify them by topics. For instance: idioms about weather, idioms with parts of the body, food idioms….the list is endless.

At the tip of my tongue
Have your head on the clouds
To be full of beans
A piece of cake

Ready for a mini-test?

Which one is correct:

Fast train or quick train?
A round of applause or
a round of claps?
It is raning dogs and cats or It is raining cats and dogs?
Gentlement and ladies or ladies and
Flesh and blood or Blood and flesh?
Butter and bread or Bread and butter?

Have fun while learning! And most importantly: show your students that some combinations of words convey the precise meaning in a given situation. Encourage them to give it a try!

Are you up to it?
Try this quiz:

Too easy? Too difficult? Or was it just right? Let us know your strategies to get the right answers!


Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish. She has also completed a number of online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor. This article aims to reflect on the teaching of idioms and collocations to sound more natural when speaking in English.

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