Make no bones about it; idioms can be a bump in the road for any language learner. Learning a new language can be challenging enough, but throw in something that, by definition, cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements*, it can make any language learner hit a snag.
By and large, native speakers use idioms without a thought. It can be confusing for non-native speakers in casual conversation, but it can also be detrimental to a company’s success or even contribute to its failure. Organizations that do business overseas frequently have to carefully eliminate colloquialisms and idiomatic phrases from official documents that are intended for international audiences so as to not confuse an issue, offend the recipient, or maybe worse, lose a multi-million/billion dollar deal (or vice versa).
You may have noticed that the above paragraphs are peppered with idiomatic phrases. Before you read on, try to identify them. Go ahead; see if you can sniff them out!
If you found any of the following, you were right!
(In order of appearance)
Make no bones about it
Bump in the road
To hit a snag
By and large
Sniff them out
So, what idioms do you use in your native language that are similar to these? Share them in the comments, will you?
Here are their definitions:
Make no bones about it: To state a fact in a way that allows no doubt. To have no objection to.
Bump in the road: a hindrance in some quest or extended task.
To throw in: to insert or to introduce something.
To hit a snag: to experience a difficulty.
By and large: in all respects, totally, comprehensively, completely, all-told, all-inclusive.
Vice versa: With the order or meaning reversed; conversely.
To peppered with: To shower with or as if with small missiles.
Sniff them out: to detect through shrewdness or instinct.
After reading this post, the above idioms should seem pretty cut and dried. But if it’s harder than you think it will be, don’t be too down in the dumps, you’ll get it soon enough… and in spades.
As Livemocha Blog contributing writer Miranda González mentioned in her post a couple of weeks ago, if you learn the history of an idiomatic phrase it may make it easier to remember and to use in context. I recently came across a book called Common Phrases And Where They Come From that sheds some light on dozens of English idiomatic phrases with detailed history and backstory to each of those that are included. I quickly realized that this would be a fantastic resource for English language learners and spoke directly to what Miranda was saying. Pick up a copy and you are certain to have a little bit of fun with language learning.
More idioms and their definitions:
Cut and dried: ordinary; routine.
Down in the dumps: a gloomy, melancholy state of mind; depression.
In spades: to a considerable degree.
To come across: To meet or find by chance.
To shed some light: to reveal something about something; to clarify something.
So, the wording and the sentences are very different, but the paragraphs as a whole have the same idea, and the idioms are completely changed. If you have the time, this is a word by word translation.”
Sin duda alguna, las expresiones idiomáticas pueden hacer que nos quedemos de a seis.
Without a doubt, idioms can make us “stay like a six” (stay confused)
Aprender un nuevo idioma es difícil por sí solo y si le agregamos algo que por definición, no se puede entender al analizar los elementos individualmente, puede que nos demos de topes contra la pared.
Learning a new language is difficult by itself and if we add something that by definition can not be understood by analyzing the individual elements, we may “bump our heads against the wall.”
Todo el mundo echa mano de expresiones idiomáticas cuando se trata de su propio idioma.
Everybody “throws hand” (makes use) of idioms when it is about their own language.
Para los estudiantes de idiomas estas confusiones pueden pasar como si nada.
For language students these confusions may pass as if nothing.
Pero en los negocios, una expresión mal entendida puede evitar que una compañía haga su agosto o provocar su caída.
But in business, a misunderstood expression may avoid a company from “making their august” (getting a big profit) or cause its downfall.
Las organizaciones con negocios internacionales tienen que echarle un ojo a estos asuntos y a veces tienen que eliminar expresiones coloquiales y frases idiomáticas de sus comunicados oficiales para no meterse en camisa de once varas y evitar que un asunto sea malentendido, ofender al público o peor aún, perder un contrato de millones o miles de millones de dólares (o viceversa).
Organizations with international businesses have to “throw an eye on” (pay attention to) these issues and sometimes have to eliminate popular expressions and idioms from their official announcements in order to avoid “getting into an eleven yard shirt” (getting in unnecessary problems) and avoid causing misunderstandings, offending the public or even worse, lose a deal million or thousands of millions of dollars (or viceversa).
Habrás notado que estos párrafos están llenos de frases idiomáticas. Antes de continuar, trata de encontrarlas todas. ¡Ponte las pilas y trata de identificarlas!
You may have noticed that these parragraphs are full of idioms. Before you continue, try to find them all. “Put the batteries in you” (Be eager and willing) and try to identify them!
Después de leer este artículo, las expresiones de arriba deben estar claras como el agua. Pero si resulta ser más difícil de lo esperado, no te desanimes… pronto te caerá el veinte.
After this article, the above expressions must be “clear as water”. But if it turns out more difficult than expected, don´t despair, soon the “twenty will fall on you”. (you will understand it)