The Weekly Text, November 20, 2015

As I understand it, one of the most difficult things for English language learners to understand and master are the manifold idioms in the language, particularly in American English. While my knowledge of this is anecdotal (among other things, I hear that’s the part of the ESL test on which students fare most poorly), not the best kind of evidence for any kind of conclusion about this problem area of instruction, I don’t have any trouble imagining that some of the struggling learners I work with would find it a challenge to deal with the figurative and abstract aspects of idioms in American English.

So I have become interested in the idiom as a way of teaching figurative language, and to teach the difference between figurative and literal language. I’m somewhat circumspect about posting this first lesson from a unit that I’ve provisionally titled “How Not to Talk Like the Guys in ‘Dumb and Dumber'” for a couple of reasons. First, I thereby admit that I’ve watched both the “Dumb and Dumber” movies a sufficient number of times to have had them inspire me to develop instructional material–something that doesn’t quite fit the cut of the intellectual jib (to pervert an idiom slightly)  I seek to present on Mark’s Text Terminal. The other reason is that this lesson, and the other four I’m working on for this short unit, combine instruction on idioms with material, which in this first lesson is only implied, on malapropisms.

Anyway, I’d like to hear from you if this is something you’ve found useful per se, or if you modified it for your students and how, or if you think it is just silly. My students did, but they also learned to understand and use an extremely common idiom in American English, which is prior knowledge I believe they can call up to understand and use other idioms.

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