TEACHING IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS TO LEARNERS OF EFL
THROUGH A CORPUS BASED ON DISNEY MOVIES
Irene López Rodriguez
Brown University, USA
Elena María García Moreno
Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Cartagena
Abstract: This paper attempts to provide a strategy for the teaching of idioms to learners of EFL through a corpus based on Disney movies. Adopting a cognitive approach, idioms are seen as being motivated by conceptual metaphors which tend to be grounded in our embodied experiences and which very often involve mental imagery. This imagistic component, in turn, is brought to the fore by means of Disney movies which very often commingle the pictorial, linguistic and embodied elements associated to an idiom.
Key words: idioms, learners of EFL, conceptual metaphors, linguistic corpus, Disney movies. Resumen: El presente artículo intenta ofrecer una estrategia para la enseñanza de expresiones idiomáticas a estudiantes de inglés como lengua extranjera. Adoptando un enfoque cognitivo, las expresiones idiomáticas están compuestas sobre todo por metáforas de naturaleza conceptual que emanan de las facultades psicomotrices y sensoriales del ser humano y que a menudo están ligadas a imágenes mentales. Este componente visual, a su vez, se pone de relieve por medio de las películas Disney, que con frecuencia mezclan los elementos pictóricos, lingüísticos y sensoriales asociados a las expresiones idiomáticas. Palabras clave: expresiones idiomáticas, estudiantes de inglés como lengua extranjera, metáforas conceptuales, corpus lingüístico, películas Disney.
One of the main problems which seem to bedevil EFL learners has to do with the acquisition of idioms and figures of speech. Students often complain about the difficulties involved in understanding idiomatic expressions such as to fall in love, to be over the moon or to be under the weather, when the image of a person falling, standing over the moon or being placed under meteorological conditions apparently holds no relation whatsoever with the states of love, happiness and sadness conveyed by these expressions respectively. On other occasions, EFL teachers frequently encounter original renditions of the English language lying somewhere between Spanish and the target language. Errors ranging from speaking in silver (hablando en plata), to take the hair (tomar el pelo), to have someone in the tin (tener a alguien en el bote) or to have very bad milk (tener muy mala leche) simply dramatize the utter failure of word for word transposition from Spanish to English that students too often attempt (S. IRUJO 1986A, 1986B). i
Idioms, indeed, constitute a notoriously difficult area of foreign language learning and teaching because, by definition, idioms are conventionalized expressions whose overall meaning cannot be determined from the meaning of their constituent parts. Hence, an 240
idiomatic expression like let the cat out of the bag is composed of several words (let/the/cat/out/ of/the/bag) whose individual meanings do not seem to contribute to the meaning of the idiom as a whole (reveal a secret). In addition to this apparent incongruity between form and meaning, the scarcity of teaching materials and the lack of a clear methodology make idioms a stumbling block for EFL students (A. DEIGNAN ET AL. 1997, L. CAMERON & G. LOW 1999).
This paper attempts to provide a strategy for the teaching and learning of idiomsii in the EFL classroom. Adopting a cognitive approach, idioms are seen as being motivated by underlying conceptual metaphors which, in turn, are explained through a linguistic corpus based on children’s movies. The aim is to provide students with the necessary tools to make sense of apparently incongruous expressions, that is, to build up their metaphoric competence, while making the learning experience enjoyable.
2. METAPHORS ARE CONCEPTUAL IN NATURE
Traditionally, the teaching of figurative language has been neglected in the EFL classroom. Teachers and...
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