MAY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION RESEARCH SEMINAR
11:30AM-12:00PM 28 May, 2018
LEVEL 8, NEXUS BUILDING, 10 PULTENEY STREET, SMaRTe ROOM 812, SCHOOL OF EDUACATION
HOW MANY IDIOMS CAN BE TAUGHT IN A SINGLE LESSON?
DR JULIA MILLER (SENIOR LECTURER)
School of Education, The University of Adelaide
Abstract: Idioms (in the sense of opaque, non-literal, multiword expressions) are vital to language learning (Mel’čuk, 1993), but are often marginalised by teachers (González Rey, 2010), who tack idioms onto other lessons, using simple gapfill activities and matching games to ‘teach’ up to twenty idioms at a time. Even incorporating an idiom into a sentence does not guarantee that students understand its intricacies of structure (including variations), function or cultural connotations. (For example, the idiom ivory tower carries a negative connotation of scorn on the part of the user, but in a nutshell is neutral.) Since time is always limited in language lessons, what is the largest feasible number of idioms to teach in a typical one hour class with idioms as the sole focus?
This study trialled three one hour English for academic purposes lessons focusing on ten, six and four idioms respectively. All the idioms appear frequently in the Springer Exemplar academic English corpus and are appropriate for spoken and written academic genres. The lessons reinforced the ideas of idiomaticity, conceptual metaphor (Boers & Lindstromberg, 2012), idiom variation and connotation. Unsurprisingly, four was the best number of idioms to teach in a single lesson, giving students time to understand the idioms and use them productively. The notion of connotation caused unexpectedly difficulty, however, and is worth exploring further.
While one idiom per class would be ideal, therefore, the study indicates that up to four English idioms can be learned successfully in a one hour lesson.
Boers, F., & Lindstromberg, S. (2012). Structural elaboration by the sound (and feel) of it. In F. Boers & L. Lindstromberg (Eds.), Cognitive linguistic approaches to teaching vocabulary and phraseology (pp. 329-354). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
González Rey, M. I. (2010). La phraséodidactique en action: Les expressions figées comme objet d’enseignement. La clé des langues. Lyon: ENS LSH/DGESCO. Retrieved from http://cle. ens-lyon. fr/50293376/0/fiche___article/
Mel’čuk, I. (1993). La phraséologie et son rôle dans l’enseignement/apprentissage d’une langue étrangère. Revue de Linguistique Appliquée, 92: 82-113.
Biography: Dr Julia Miller is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Adelaide, where she teaches academic English and research communication. She has an honours degree in Modern and Medieval Languages from the University of Cambridge; a research MA on anglicisms in Portuguese from Flinders University (South Australia); and a PhD from Flinders University in pedagogical lexicography and phraseology for EAL students. Her research interests are in lexicography, phraseology, phraseodidactics and academic skills. She is the Secretary of AustraLex, the Australian representative for Globalex and ELEXIS, and the founder of the English for Uni website (www.adelaide.edu.au/english-for-uni). This website has creative, innovative materials, together with video stories based on popular culture, all of which offer a research-based, humorous approach to transcultural language learning and teaching.