When you’re learning a new language, no doubt you’ve come across unfamiliar terms that you have to look up in the dictionary. You’ve probably come across phrases like writing is “a piece of cake.” How can writing an essay becomes a piece of cake? If you think about it logically, it makes no sense. And, if you’re writing a foreign language essay, it has no direct translation.
These are called idiomatic expressions or metaphorical idioms. Once you process these idiomatic expressions, you can transform your writing through their use. Familiarizing yourself with idioms can turn your writing into transformative pieces.
“It’s a piece of cake” means “it’s easy.” And indeed, once you familiarize yourself with metaphorical idioms, you can master writing as easily as you can eat a piece of cake. Today, we’ll talk about metaphorical idioms, breaking down the terms “idiom” and “metaphor” and their relationship to foreign language learning. We’ll see how you can transform your writing in a foreign language by learning metaphorical idioms in English and in various languages.
What Are Metaphorical Idioms And How Can You Make Sense Of Them?
According to Dictionary.com, an idiom is “an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one’s head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language.” Idioms are common expressions in one language, which may have their counterpart but not a direct translation into another. They’re common expressions because they need to be understood from that language’s particular context.
A metaphor, on the other hand, is figurative language applied to something which is not literally applicable. It just means the phrase cannot be taken literally or logically. Since we derive meaning from grammatical structures or context, metaphorical idioms may be difficult to process since they go beyond the literal meaning or the grammatical rules of the language.
A metaphorical idiom derives its meaning from common usages, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” which means it’s raining in a downpour, or “every cloud has a silver lining” which means there’s good in everything. In both cases, they’re metaphors because they compare cats and dogs to heavy rains, and a silver lining in a cloud to mean good luck; they’re also idioms because they need common knowledge to verify their meaning.
Here is a list of common idiomatic expressions in English.
How Can You Use These Idioms To Transform Your Foreign Language Writing?
But English idioms are not alone. There are a ton of foreign language idioms in a variety of languages and regions.
For example, “bats in the belfry” in British English, “he’s got a kangaroo loose in the top paddock” in Australian English, and “he’s got a loose screw” in American English all mean someone’s going crazy.
“Les carrotes sont cuites!” in French literally means “the carrots are cooked,” but it’s an idiom, which of course means it has a different meaning: “the situation cannot be changed.” In American English, it reminds us of the phrase, “No use crying over spilled milk.”
In Russian, the idiom “брать/взять себя в руки” literally means “to take oneself in one’s hands” but its idiomatic counterpart in English is “to pull yourself together,” or “to be calm or behave normally without being upset.” There’s a German version of the idiom too, which translates literally as “to tear oneself together,” and a Polish one, which translates literally to “we take ourselves into our fist.”
These idioms are all from a TED Talk on the topic if you want to find out more.
Only by immersing yourself in a language can you make sense of these idioms, taking into consideration these language markers:
- Slang – Informal language tied to a particular language and culture
- Rhetorical Language – Special types of words used to convey meaning in a language, such as similes, metaphors, and figures of speech like idioms.
- Cultural Connotations – Emotional or ideological associations to a word that differs from one culture to another.
Taking these into account will not only make your foreign language writing better by giving it cultural context, but also add a more native tone to your writing style.
So as you have probably seen by now, most idiomatic expressions are made out of metaphors–some can be translated literally, but most have to be translated idiomatically. Can translation help make sense of it all? And how?
How Translation Services Makes Sense Of In Idiomatic Expressions
Transforming your writing through idioms is a difficult task, especially if you’re not as familiar with the language you’re learning. You’ll likely see these unfamiliar words and phrases and not know how to translate them. Translation services could help solve the problems you encounter with idioms, with a network of professional translators who are expert linguists in any language.
Translation services, who are adept at crossing any language border through translation, know the difficulties of idioms. They are experts in their own fields of languages and can guide you through any difficulties. Translation services are not just translators, though, they also include content writers, SEO specialists, and literary experts. These fields may be useful in language learning.
Your foreign language writing can be enhanced by rhetorical devices like idioms. They can make your writing brighter and full of flair, and advance you in a language you are not as familiar with. The use of idioms is especially useful when dealing with feelings and emotions that are not translatable–idioms can help express, through common knowledge, the inner you.