Learners’ Recognition of Thai-English Idiom Counterparts

| January 7, 2014

December 2008. Volume 3 Issue 3
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Title
Learners’ Recognition of Thai-English Idiom Counterparts

Author
Payung Cedar
Naresuan University, Thailand

Bio-Data
Payung Cedar has earned a Ph.D. degree in Applied Linguistics from Boston University, M.A. (English) from University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A., M.A. (Linguistics) from Mahidol University, and B.A. (English Language and Literature from Srinakharinwirote University, Thailand). Her interest and specialization lie in the fields of sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, TESOL/TEFL, and bilingualism. She is currently a professor at Naresuan University, Thailand.


 

Abstract
Using idioms is an efficient way to improve effective business communication. Although L2 idioms are hard to master, most advanced L2 learners expect to proficiently make use of them. This paper demonstrates problems Thai speakers learning English have confronted and illustrates some solutions. Using a questionnaire for data collection, the study shows that some learners are aware of L1-L2 semantically similar idioms, but most of them have difficulty supplying English idioms that are equivalent to Thai idioms. Accordingly, the result points the way to further investigation of L1 influence and L2 acquisition in the realm of idioms beyond the lexical level.

Key word: English Thai idiom knowledge semantic

I. Introduction
Knowledge and understanding of L1 influence on the use of L2 has increased considerably over the last three decades. Yet, there is still no consensus in literature regarding the questions of when, where, in what form, and to what extent L1 influence occurs in the development of a second language (Jarvis, 2000:2). The idea that the L1 influences conceptualization (word-meaning association) and production in the L2 is uncontroversial. However, there have been numerous proposals concerning how this actually takes place, and to what degree.

An idiom, in a standard view, is a multiple word unit whose overall meaning does not come merely from its individual parts. For example, native speakers of English immediately realize that the meaning of preaching to the choir (talking as if to convince those who already share the same belief) cannot be derived from the individual meanings of preach and choir. Semantically, idioms can be categorized into several groups1, as follows: phrasal verbs (e.g., break up), metaphors (e.g., spill the beans), metonymies (e.g., throw up one’s hands), similes (e.g., as easy as pie), sayings (e.g., a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush), grammatical idioms (e.g. let alone), idioms with it (e.g. live it up), and others (Kövecses & Szabó, 1996:321).

In terms of form, idioms are divided into two types: lexemic idioms and phraseological idioms (e.g., Latter, 1986). Lexemic idioms are lexical items that convey metaphoric meanings, such as the verbs in She broke his heart, and He broke his word (Kellerman, 1979:49). Latter (1986:220) notes that lexemic idioms can occur in several different parts of speech:
Verb: turn-in (‘go to bed’)
Noun: hot dog (‘frankfurter’)
Adjective: black-and-white (‘clearly one thing or the other e.g., good or bad’)
Adverb: like a bird (said of eating,’ very little’)
hand in glove (‘very close or friendly’ often with negative intent toward third parties)

Phraseological idioms are those that contain several parts of speech, (e.g., sayings)(Latter, 1986:220). The combination of several parts of speech allows a phraseological idiom to be more flexible than a lexemic idiom. For example, the phraseological idiom The/An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree includes at least three parts of speech, e.g., noun phrase (apple), verb phrase (doesn’t fall), adverbial phrase (far from the tree). The combination of parts of speech allows varying alternative forms, including An apple never falls far from the tree, Apples don’t fall far from trees, The apple doesn’t roll too far from the tree, The apple falls close to the tree, The apple never falls far from the tree, The apples don’t fall far from the tree, and The old apple don’t fall far from the tree (Mieder, 1995:11).

The importance of idiom studies
Idioms are regarded as part of figurative language, one of the important features of natural language (Hoffman, 1984,; Irujo, 1986). Additionally, Weigand (1998: 2, 9) points out, “… idioms and other phraseological conventions were regarded as important by the powerful language teaching lobby, … If a word is likely to be intricately associated with the words that occur round about it, then the consequences of studying its meaning in isolation are unpredictable”. In fact, Cooper (1999:233) reported that the work of Pollio et al. (1997) showed that “most English speakers utter about 10 million novel metaphors per lifetime and 20 million idioms per lifetime, and this works out to about 3,000 novel metaphors per week and 7,000 idioms per week.” Nevertheless, idioms have been proven to be one of the most difficult aspects of language for learners in all groups: L1 learners (e.g., Nippold, 1991; Gibbs, 1994), language-disordered learners (e.g., Nippold & Fey, 1983; Nippold, 1991), and bilingual and second language students (e.g., Irujo, 1986; Cooper, 1999; Mahmoud, 2002). Phraseological idioms are important in second language acquisition. They may not occur as often as many other parts of the language, but they exist cross-linguistically. Acquiring L2 idioms is remarkably difficult because each idiom is a fixed expression (e.g., Green, 1975), (i.e. its linguistic elements form a unit and are arranged in a specific pattern, and the meaning is not derived merely from its individual components). However, most second language learners have a strong desire to master L2 idioms in order to sound “natural” or non-foreign (Richards, 1996:32). As Thiel (1979:23) elaborates, “sooner or later, lack of precise idiomatic usage will betray the foreign background even of a speaker with an excellent grammatical knowledge, vocabulary, and pronunciation. And just as surely, command of idioms will generate confidence and respect.”
Idioms constitute a special problem for L2 learners, including advanced Thai-speaking learners of English. One of the reasons is that acquiring the ability to use correct idiomatic expressions in the right way and at the right time takes significant effort. Unfortunately, available dictionaries of English/American idioms often suffer from insufficient information about restrictions on how and when idioms are used. Neither Thai-English/English-Thai dictionaries nor language books provide information about Thai idioms. Thus, idiom learning basically relies on classroom activities. Unfortunately, like other language-specific elements, idiomatic expressions are often excluded from classroom activities because many language-teaching specialists hold a common belief that learners can pick up these elements by themselves through intensive exposure to the L2. Contrary to this belief, language-specific elements, i.e. L2 elements that are pragmatically and structurally different from L1 elements, cannot be easily acquired through mere repeated exposure to the L2 (Selinker, 1971). Even a long period of stay in an L2-speaking country does not significantly improve the advanced learners’ productive skills (Marton, 1977). Linguistically, mere exposure to the L2 cannot help a learner to correct inaccurate language-specific elements in his productive usage, even though it does help his comprehension skills, because it is hard to pinpoint a particular idiom, understand it, and see how it is used in the flow of massive information.

Studies on L1-L2 lexical idioms have been of interest to many researchers for decades. Some studies include Dutch – German (Jordens, 1977) Dutch – English (Kellerman, 1979, 1986) Japanese – English (Tanaka, 1983; Tanaka, Takahashi & Abe, 1990) Chinese – English (Zhou, 2001), German/Urdu – English (Ijaz, 1985, 1986), Spanish – English (Correa-Benningfield, 1990). The studies employed different idioms in the L1 to test whether the L1 plays a major role on the learner’s perception of L2 idioms. Most of the findings, except those from Correa-Benningfield’s study, showed evidence for L1 influence. Nevertheless, there have been only a few studies of the learner’s perception and/or production of L1-L2 idioms beyond the lexical level. These studies, leading up to the current one, are reviewed below.

II. Previous studies on L1 influence in the acquisition of phraseological idioms
The harder L2 idioms are to master, the more desirable they are for advanced L2 learners. Hence, studies on L2 idiom acquisition have been conducted. Recent ones include Irujo (1993), Abdullah & Jackson (1998), Laufer (2000), and Mahmoud (2002) as briefly reviewed below.
Irujo (1993) explored the influence of L1 Spanish in advanced ESL learners’ comprehension and production of three types of English idioms: 1) those that were identical in form to Spanish idioms, 2) those that were very similar in form to Spanish idioms, and 3) those that were totally different in form from functionally similar Spanish idioms. Twelve Venezuelan-Spanish-speaking undergraduate students at a U.S. university were subjects in the study. The results showed that the subjects used their L1 to both comprehend and produce idioms in the L2. They produced a high proportion of correct responses in both comprehension and production with English idioms that had exact equivalents in Spanish. Additionally, they comprehended idioms that were very similar in the two languages almost as well as those that were identical in both languages. However, the “interference” of Spanish, where the use of L1 causes errors in IL, was prevalent in their production. Idioms that were different in the two languages were the most difficult for them to comprehend and produce, although the interference of the L1 for these idioms was slight.
Abdullah & Jackson (1998) investigated phraseological idioms in L1 Syrian Arabic learners of English. They categorized idioms into four groups: 1) cognate idioms, 2) false cognate idioms, 3) idioms with pragmatic equivalents, and 4) idioms with different cognates. Using 80 English idioms, twenty of which were in each idiom type defined above, Abdullah & Jackson tested 120 advanced Syrian learners of English. They found that positive transfer (L1 influence that leads to correct answers) occurred in the participants’ production of the cognate group, and negative transfer occurred in production of the false cognate group. Interestingly, for the last two types of idioms Abdullah & Jackson found no evidence for transfer. The study concluded that L1-L2 similarity may be the factor that contributed most to idiom learning, but it did not necessarily facilitate idiom comprehension or production, and the L1-L2 differences did not crucially impede L2 idiom comprehension. Another study of phraseological idioms was conducted by Laufer (2000), which focused on learner’s avoidance (learners, under communication pressure, tend to use L2 constructions that are simple or similar to L1 constructions, instead of complex or L2-specific ones) as opposed of to acquisition. Laufer examined the uses of English idioms by Hebrew-speaking learners. She categorized idioms into four groups which included English idioms that did not have idiomatic counterparts in Hebrew: 1) total formal similarity, 2) partial formal similarity, 3) formal difference, and 4) distributional difference.
The most recent study of L2 idiom acquisition was administered by Mahmoud (2002) who investigated the influence of Arabic on the use of English idioms by 230 second year students majoring in English. Using written data from reading and writing courses, he found that in 3220 written assignments, there were only 124 idioms, 25 of which were grammatically, lexically, and contextually correct, and 18 of which had Arabic equivalents.
In summary, only a few studies on L1 influence have been conducted on sayings or idioms beyond the lexical level. In particular, little has been reported on the perception or recognition of L2 learners on semantic similarity between Thai-English idioms (specifically, sayings). Sayings vary across cultures (Kövecses, 1995), and they reflect what their people are like. They not only represent folk wisdom but also the beauty of the language. Besides, manipulating sayings in conversations can be a powerful marketing technique and a lot of fun. Accordingly, this study investigates Thai graduate students’ recognition in semantic congruity between L1-L2 idioms beyond the lexical level. Two research questions are set as follows:

To what extent do Thai-speaking learners of English recognize pragmatic congruency between Thai idioms and English idioms?
To what extent do they produce the corresponding English idioms2?
III. Method
To answer the questions above, this study is administered with subjects and data collection procedures described below.

Subjects
The subjects of this experiment were 31 graduate students at universities in Delaware, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Washington3. These students had all been in the United States for approximately two and a half years at the time of data collection. They were considered to be advanced learners of English because they had received at least a bachelor’s degree and they had met their university’s entry requirements, including a high TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score, in order to be qualified to study at the graduate level. Living and studying in an English-speaking country helped provide these students with a great deal of accessible input. The TOEFL score that the subjects obtained before they entered these U.S universities ranged from 501- 630.

Materials and procedure
The questionnaire used in this study includes fourteen Thai idiomatic sayings in random order. According to the researcher’s informal analysis and consultation with ten native speakers of Thai and ten native speakers of American English, these sayings have a different degree of semantic transparency. All linguistic items selected for the study have pragmatic equivalents in both Thai and English. The subjects were asked whether there is an English idiom that conveys a similar meaning to each given Thai idiom. The choices given are “Yes,” “No,” and “Don’t know.” In order to ascertain how well advanced learners can produce English idioms, the subjects were also asked to supply a pragmatically corresponding English example (if they knew of one) for each given Thai idiom. The subjects were requested to fill in the questionnaire independently at their convenience without the use of any linguistic tools. They were told only that a reliable result would benefit Thai learners and teachers of English. Below is the questionnaire instruction translated into English, together with sample Thai idioms. The original was only in Thai, and corresponding samples were not given.

———————————————

Read each Thai expression given below, and decide whether there is an English expression/idiom that has the same meaning as the Thai expression/idiom4.

Check Yes if you believe that there is an English expression/idiom that has the same meaning as the Thai expression/idiom

Check No if you believe that there is no English expression/idiom that has the same meaning as the Thai expression/idiom

Check Don’t know if you do not know the answer or are uncertain about it. If you think there is an English expression/idiom that has the same meaning as a given Thai expression/idiom, please supply one.

Thai expressions/idioms

Yes

No

Don’t know

If yes, supply one

1. hen5  kong1jak2   pen1   dok2bua1 
see     gear             as         lotus

 

 

 

Wolf in sheep’s clothing.

2. luat3     khon3     kwa:2       na:m4
   Blood    thick       more        water

 

 

 

Blood is thicker than water.

IV. Results and discussion
The results in Table 1 below are given in response to the first research question: how effectively do advanced learners of English recognize pragmatic congruency between Thai idioms and English idioms?

Table 1: Advanced EFL learners’ responses concerning the pragmatic congruency between Thai and English idioms

Idioms

Pragmatically
congruent idioms

No pragmatically
congruent idioms

Uncertain

Supplied English 
counterparts

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Where there’s a will there’s a way.

24

78

1

3

6

19

7

23

When in Rome do as the Romans do.

16

52

2

6

13

42

7

23

Two heads are better than one.

15

48

2

7

14

45

4

13

An apple falls not far from the tree.

15

48

2

6

14

45

4

13

Blood is thicker than water.

14

45

5

16

12

39

3

10

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

14

45

1

3

16

52

3

10

When a cat’s away the mice play.

12

39

2

6

17

55

2

6

Silence is golden.

11

35

4

13

16

52

3

10

Beauty is only skin-deep.

8

26

3

10

20

64

1

3

Spare the rod, spoil the child

7

23

10

32

14

45

2

6

Preach to the choir.

7

23

2

6

22

71

0

0

Wolf in sheep’s clothing.

5

16

4

13

22

71

0

0

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

2

6

10

32

19

61

1

3

Monkey see, monkey do.

2

6

3

10

26

84

1

3

Total

152

35

51

12

231

53

38

9

Figure 1 Percentage of EFL learners’ recognition of pragmatically congruent idioms in Thai and English

Three patterns particularly stand out in the responses recorded in Table 1 and Figure 1 above. They indicate that the learners lack the knowledge of pragmatic congruency between the Thai idioms and the English idioms. First, there is a relatively small number of Yes responses, or positive responses, for the existing pragmatic congruency between Thai-English idioms, although Yes is always the correct response. Second, there is a relatively small number of certain responses (i.e., Yes or No); most responses are Don’t know. To be exact, the learners are ignorant or uncertain of whether the Thai idioms are pragmatically congruent with any English idioms. Third, there are relatively few instances in which the learners supply an idiom in English even for Yes responses. That is, less than a third of Yes responses are accompanied by an English idiom.
A closer look at the English idioms supplied shows that they are not consistent. Not all the idioms with a high score for Yes responses are accompanied by an English idiom, and several idioms with a low score for Yes responses are accompanied by an English idiom. Where there’s a will there’s a way and Two heads are better than one receive more instances of a corresponding English idiom being supplied than other idioms, but the number of the examples supplied is extraordinarily low. In addition, among the thirty-eight English counterpart idioms supplied by the learners, only twenty-four are correct and complete. (Note that the supplied idioms were evaluated by the researcher with the aid of two native speakers of English). They include five for Where there’s will there’s a way, four for Two heads are better than one, four for When in Rome, do as the Romans do, three for Blood is thicker than water, two for Spare the rod and spoil the child, and one for each of the following expressions: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, The apple does not fall far from the tree, Beauty is but skin deep, The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, When the cat’s away, the mice will play, and Silence is golden. The idioms Where there’s a will there’s a way, Two heads are better than one, and Blood is thicker than water are very structurally similar to Thai idioms; therefore, the result supports the findings of Irujo (1993), Abdullah & Jackson (1998), and Mahmoud (2002), reviewed in part II, in that L2 learners tend to be able to produce more correct L2 idioms for L1 idioms that are structurally similar to the L2 idioms than those that are pragmatically similar. These L1-L2 equivalent idioms can be easier to learn than different ones. Nonetheless, the correct responses for When in Rome, do as the Romans do reflect the influence of either frequency of occurrences or formal instruction or both. Informal consultations between the author and many teachers of English in Thailand confirm the likelihood that formal instruction is a good explanation.
Fourteen out of the thirty-eight expressions are wrong or incomplete. They fall into six categories: cross-linguistic influence, mismatches, alternatives of pragmatically similar idioms, paraphrases, incomplete idioms, and meaning reversal. One incorrect expression a learner provided does not seem to fit into any category mentioned above.
The demonstration of the expressions exemplified by the learners begins with the category of L1 influence as it is most related to the current study. Four English expressions supplied fall into this category. The first one is when cat is away, the rat will play which is used as an equivalent idiom to When the cat is away the mouse will play. Unlike English, the meaning of the Thai term /nu:5/ includes rat and mouse. Therefore, it is possible that the term rat is used due to cross-linguistic influence. Interestingly, there is a good phonetic rhyme between cat and rat but not between cat and mouse. Another expression related to L1 influence is Fruits never fall far away from tree, as the term fruits is commonly used in the Thai idiom, whereas the term apple(s) is found in the English corresponding idiom. The more general term fruit may be used because apples are not commonly grown in tropical areas like Thailand.
Another category of expressions supplied by the learners is mismatches. Mismatches are expressions that are possible in English but do not have the same meaning as the Thai idioms. In other words, the English expression given is not a correct corresponding English idiom for a given Thai idiom. Four supplied English expressions fall into this category. They are Rome wasn’t built in a day for the idiom When in Rome do as the Romans do, Give it one’s best shot for the idiom Where there’s a will there’s a way, and Actions are better than words and Those who speak don’t know for Silence is golden. Plausible explanations for these circumstances are suggested as follows. First, the supplied expressions, Actions are better than words and Those who speak don’t know, are not metaphoric, although they are close in meaning to the actual target. Additionally, Actions are better than words is likely a non-metaphoric version of Action speaks louder than words. However, Give it one’s best shot is metaphoric and is close in meaning to the actual target, but it is not the intended counterpart of the Thai saying. Rome wasn’t built in a day is metaphoric, but it does not have the same meaning as the actual target. It seems to reflect the learner’s confusion with the key word Rome in the two English idioms.

The alternative category includes expressions that are pragmatically similar to English idioms that are direct counterparts of given Thai idioms. These alternatives are not considered direct counterparts of Thai idioms because there are other idioms in English that are similar in both form and function to the Thai idioms. Two alternatives were found in the learners’ responses. They are Like father, like son and Like mother, like daughter, which are used as pragmatic equivalents to The apple falls not far from the tree. A plausible explanation for these circumstances is that the alternatives occur more frequently than the correct English idioms. However, they are not figurative even though they have a frozen structure.
Another category of the expressions exemplified by the learners is paraphrase. The paraphrased expressions demonstrate the meaning of the idioms in a non-metaphoric way. Success is contingent on hard work supplied for Where there’s a will there’s a way, and Safety first supplied for An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. An explanation for these circumstances is that the learners have not acquired the complicated structure of the English idioms, but they tried to express the meaning of the Thai idioms. As a consequence, they provide English expressions that simplify the form and meaning of the Thai idioms. The evidence supports Laufer’s (2000) study that learners tend to avoid using idiomatic expressions if they do not acquire them.
The last two categories of examples given by the learners are incomplete idioms and meaning reversal. The incomplete idioms are Romeand Do as the Romans do, which are provided for the Thai idiom When in Rome do as the Romans do. It is possible that learners do know the English idiom but encounter difficulty recalling it completely. Meaning reversal is a switch between the weights of prevention and cure, as the exemplified expression reads A pound of prevention worths an ounce of cure. This implies that the learner is aware of the idiom but does not understand it completely; he has not mastered it.
However, one learner’s expression does not fit into any category mentioned above. Don’t do what people told you to do is supplied for Monkey see, Monkey do. This expression cannot fit into the mismatch category because it indicates an incorrect understanding of the meaning of the Thai idiom.
Interestingly, the results show that Thai sayings that are structurally congruent with the corresponding English sayings tend to have more instances of supply than those that are only pragmatically congruent with the English counterparts. For example, the Thai saying sO:N5 hua5 di:1 kwa:2 hua5 diaw1 (two-head-good-more than-head-one), which is structurally congruent with Two heads are better than one, has four correct instances of supply. Also, the Thai saying lUat3 khon3 kwa:2 na:m4 (blood-thick-more than-water), which is structurally congruent with the corresponding Blood is thicker than water, has three correct instances of supply. However, one Thai saying khaw3 mUaN1 ta:1 liw2 tON3 liw2 ta:1 ta:m1 (enter-town-eye-half close-must-half close-eye-follow) “When entering a town with half-closed eye people, half close your eyes” is not structurally congruent with the English counterpart When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but it has four correct instances of supply. This seems to indicate that structural congruency between L1 elements and the corresponding L2 may play a role in the learners’ acquisition of the L2. However, this indication triggers other experiments designed to investigate the effect of the structural congruency.
The results also indicate that the semantic transparency of the Thai sayings may affect the learners’ mastery of the corresponding English sayings. Again, Where there’s a will, there’s a way has the most instances of correct supply. In addition to the somewhat structural congruency between this English saying and the corresponding Thai saying kwa:m1 pha1ya:1ya:m1 yu:2 thi:3 nay5, kwa:m1 sam5ret2 yu:2 thi:3 nan3 (NM5-attempt-be-at-where-NM-success-be-at-there) “Where there’s an attempt, there’s a success”, the Thai saying also seems to have higher semantic transparency than other sayings. That is to say, unlike the others, it is not metaphoric (or idiomatic). Its intended meaning is derived from the meanings of its individual words. Hence, other experiments, conducted later, use only idiomatic sayings.
It should be noted that none of the learners selects Yes, No, or Don’t know for every question. This indicates that they have paid attention to the task. In addition, proficiency difference is not evaluated in this experiment because there is no reliable criterion that differentiates the subjects’ proficiency. Although TOEFL scores are available for the subjects, some subjects took the TOEFL exam over three years before the time of data collection, and some took it a few months before the data collection. In addition, some subjects had a lower TOEFL score but had stayed in the U.S. longer than those with a higher score.

V. Conclusion and implications
The investigation of Thai EFL learners’ knowledge of pragmatic congruency between English idioms and Thai idioms showed that graduate students at universities in the U.S.A. tended to have a very low ability to recognize pragmatic congruency between Thai idioms and English idioms. Many of them reported their uncertainty and inability to decide whether the Thai idioms had counterparts in English. It is not clear whether the learners’ responses were based on their exposure to the L2 idioms or to simply guessing. The former reflects the learners’ L2 proficiency. The latter brings about a question of what criteria the learners use to guess the structural and pragmatic congruency between Thai idioms and English idioms. It is possible that the two factors were taken into account. Thus, further study should test whether proficiency level plays a role in the learners’ judgments for the structural and pragmatic congruency between Thai idioms and English idioms, and in their production of L2 idioms.

Implications for further studies
The results from this study also pinpoint questions recommended for further studies. The first two questions are: a) What criteria do learners use to determine the pragmatic congruency of L1-L2 idioms? b) Do learners rely on structural congruency between L1-L2 idioms, and pragmatic transparency of the L1 idioms in determining the pragmatic congruency? The answer to these questions should explain why some idioms are recognized more often as having a pragmatic correspondence than others. Besides, two additional questions arise around the circumstance that most of the learners do not know or cannot determine whether a Thai idiom has a semantic/pragmatic counterpart in English, and even if they do know that a given idiom has a pragmatic counterpart, most of the learners cannot provide it. These questions include: c) What would learners actually do to communicate the concepts of this type of idiom? d) Is L1 influence the strategy most employed by the learners? To answer these questions, the author conducted further studies.

Implications for L2 pedagogy and acquisition
The results showing the six categories that learners’ mistakes fall into can be used for educators and L2 teachers to educate learners about the nature of mistakes they have made and how to prevent them. For example, the outcome of transferring L1 idiomatic equivalent expressions can be either positive or negative. The L1-L2 structurally similar idioms can facilitate learning, whereas the different ones can impede learning. On the other hand, the different ones can be easily observed if they are pointed out, and thus impede transferring of L1 idioms. For the second category of mistakes, “mismatches”, the teacher can start with what the learner knows, e.g. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and introduce an idiomatic equivalent like When in Rome, do as the Romans do, stressing the structural similarity between the L2 idiom and the L1 idiom. This tip also applies to alternative and paraphrase categories. According to the last two categories, incomplete idioms and meaning reversal, it is suggested that the teacher emphasize the learner’s use or practice of the idioms more often in order for the learner to correctly recall what they know. Undeniably, no matter what type of mistakes the learner makes, both memorization and frequent practice of the correct idioms are needed.

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Notes:
1. See Longman Dictionary of English Idioms (1979), Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English Vol. 1 (1975), Vol. 2 (1983), Alexander (1987), and Lattey (1986).

2. The L1 and L2 idioms are pragmatically congruent if they share the same central concept and can be used in the same contexts.

3. Originally, 47 participants filled in the questionnaires, but sixteen were excluded because the subjects’ periods of residence in the U.S. did not meet this study’s requirement (i.e. they stayed much longer or shorter than the residential period required for this study).

4. It should be noted that the Thai word sam5nuan1 used in Experiment I questionnaire means “idiom/expression/literary style” in English. The meanings of sam5nuan1 are cited below.
sam5nuan1 means “literary style; literary mannerism; an idiom; the court files of a case, a dossier” (New Model Thai-English Dictionary by So Sethaputra, 1989:294).

5. NM is an abbreviation of Nominalization Marker or nominalizer, which is a syntactic marker that transforms a verb into a noun, for example, –er in teacher and –ation in realization.

 

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