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Thread: Use of idioms

  1. #1
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Use of idioms

    Do you, native English speakers, often use idioms in (a) spoken, and (b) written English?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    Idioms are widely used in all forms and styles of English. However, proverbs are much less used than in the past.

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    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Idioms are widely used in all forms and styles of English. However, proverbs are much less used than in the past.
    Do you think that it's permissible to use idioms in official writing, for instance in scientific literature? Nowadays clarity and readability of texts is very important in science, especially because very many readers (and authors) are not native English speakers. Actually, I do not meet too many proverbs in scientific literature and am figuring out whether it is permissible at all.

    Best,
    Nyggus

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    I'd avoid proverbs in scientific writing and be careful about idioms. Science is perhaps the most international in readership, so excessive or unnecessary use of idioms may well make the text more difficult for foreign readers. One problem many native speakers have is not taking foreign readers into account, whiochis one reason why many non-native speakers understand each other better even though from very different cultures and language backgrounds. A scientific text for, say, the general press will often use idioms, etc, especially in headlines, but more specialist publications should, I think, go easy. An article in a journal may be read by people from dozens of countries- would an idiomatic usage help them? In many cases, probably not. Idiomatic usage may make it easier for native speakers, but for the wider community, many of whom have studied Ebnglish because they have to rather than because they want to, trips to the dictionary are unwelcome intrusions on trying to master the often complex contents of a text.

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    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    Quote Originally Posted by nyggus
    Do you, native English speakers, often use idioms in (a) spoken, and (b) written English?
    Thanks
    Actually, tdol, I see in your posts that you use idioms, so my question was needless. This is the best oportunity to learn them: to talk with someone who use them. Actually, I don't like learning English at school or courses: I don't have to now, fortunately. But I work with English, I also have many English speaking friends, and I use it a lot: this kind of learning is great!

    Thanks,
    Nyggus

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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    I'm not sure why tdol brought proverbs into the equation - they are quite different from idioms. Idioms are amazingly common in English. If you can get your hands on a copy of Jon Wright's excellent book, 'Idioms Organiser', you'll see what I mean. Nyggus makes the point that it is hard for non-natives to understand idiomatic language though I can't imagine many writers, native or non-native, make a conscious effort to reduce their use of idiomatic language when writing.
    Jeremy
    http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jeremytaylor/

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    I brought them in because there is overlap and they are an area in decline in usage, often lumped together, and indeed many proverbs are higly idiomatic.

    With regard to deliberately reducing use of idiomatic language, there are cases of this actually happening- in Offshore English, companies are training their native speaker staff to be more readily comprehensible to non-native clients and customers precisely through such techniques as reduction of idiomatic usage and of culture-specific references, etc. Also, EIL is looking into this area, among others, as a means of increasing understanding across cultures, a state of affairs that is likely to increase. In fact, with EIL, there is a major attempt by some to effect a shift away from the native speaker and to teach people to communicate without the drive towards using native speakers as models, but to reflect the communication needs of the globalised age.
    Last edited by Tdol; 12-Jan-2006 at 03:47.

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    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    And how do native speakers look at those who does not use idiomatic language and proverbs in both spoken and written language? Do you find their language poor? And what about phrasal verbs: if they are not used at all, do you find it as a symptom of a poor language, too?

    Best,
    Nyggus

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    Idioms can add colour and life to language, but not using them doesn't equate with poor English IMO, when dealing with a non-native speaker- I don't think I've ever come across a native speaker who was an idiom-free zone. Many learners seem to avoid using many phrasal verbs- the only result of this is that they don't sound as natural to use.

  10. #10
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Use of idioms

    Thanks for all your replies and the discussion! It clarifies my view on English using and shows me a way of my future learning. (Big words, I hope the results of my learning will be great, too.)

    Regards

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