Using Idioms Like a Native

Idioms are commonly used in spoken and written English. They add colour and interest to what we are saying. But how often do we actually find idioms in their original and full form? In today’s blog, we are going to be showing you how to use idioms like a Native English speaker!

1. Shorten the Idiom

Native English speakers are usually confident that their readers or listeners will recognise the idiom, so well-known phrases rarely need to be given in full. You may hear someone being warned not to count their chickens (don’t count your chickens before they are hatched) when they assume a future plan will be successful, or a friend may hint that her colleagues took advantage of the boss’s absence with when the cat’s away! (when the cat’s away, the mice will play).

Some idioms can be shortened in other ways such as long story short (to cut a long story short).

“Anyway, long story short, it turns out Drake isn’t really his father.”

Sometimes only a fragment of the original idiom remains. It is common to see restaurants offering early bird menus or prices (the early bird catches the worm). Someone may describe a terrible idea as a lead balloon (go down like a lead balloon). I recently heard someone talking about a baby and bathwater situation (don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater) when the whole of a plan was rejected because of a problem with only part of it.

2. Reverse the idiom

Another common way of changing an idiom is to reverse its meaning. For example, if you don’t want to deal with a problem straight away, you may put it on the back burner, but if something needs immediate attention, you can put it on the front burner. In your home village, you might be a big fish in a small pond but if you move to a large city you could end up a small fish in a very big pond.

Many idioms are very versatile and can be changed in a variety of ways. A carrot and stickapproach involves offering rewards and making threats to persuade someone to do something. However, you may come across examples like the following:

“Why use a stick when a carrot will work better?”

“Their approach is all stick and no carrot.”

“They are using every carrot and stick at their disposal.”

3. Adapt the idiom

One of the most attractive aspects of idioms is their adaptability. It is often possible to substitute one or more of the words in them to adapt to a particular situation. When two people have opposite tastes, you can say one man’s meat is another man’s poison. But how about one man’s junk is another man’s treasure or one man’s madness is another man’s genius? The possibilities are endless.

Substitutions can also be used to alter the meaning of an idiom. For example, a plain-talking person will call a spade a spade, but someone who is more frank than necessary may call a spade a shovel. On the other hand, someone who is reluctant to speak plainly may call a spade a gardening implement.

So, why not have a go at adapting some idioms yourself? After all, when in Rome…

Source :,7P23N,9YU4NM,VD5PV,1

New Year’s celebration around the world

New year, old celebrations

There have been celebrations to mark the beginning of a new year for thousands of years. Sometimes these were simply an opportunity for people to eat, drink and have fun, but in some places the festivities were connected to the land or astronomical events. For example, in Egypt the beginning of the year coincided with when the River Nile flooded, and this normally happened when the star Sirius rose. The Persians and Phoenicians started their new year at the spring equinox (this is around 20 March when the Sun shines more or less directly on the equator and the length of the night and the day are almost the same).

The oldest celebration

The city of Babylon in ancient Mesopotamia was where the first New Year’s celebrations were recorded about 4,000 years ago. The Babylonians held their celebrations on the first new moon after the spring equinox and called this festival Akitu (which comes from the word the Sumerians used for barley). Barley was cut in Mesopotamia in the spring, and during Akitu there was a different ritual on each of the 11 days that the celebration lasted. Statues of the gods were carried through the streets of the city, and in this way the Babylonians believed that their world had been cleaned to prepare for the new year and a new spring.

Modern celebrations

In many cities all over the world, spectacular fireworks displays take place as soon as the clock passes midnight on 31 December. In recent years, Sydney in Australia has been the host to one of the first of these celebrations as New Year arrives there before most other major international cities. The display takes place in Sydney Harbour, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge making it a stunning setting. Fireworks light up the skies in hundreds of cities as 12 midnight strikes around the globe.

Traditions that live on

There are a number of strange and interesting New Year’s traditions around the world. In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay and ‘first footing’ remains a popular custom with people visiting friends’ and neighbours’ houses just after midnight. The first person who visits your house should bring a gift as this will mean good luck. In Spain, it is the custom to eat 12 grapes as the bells sound for midnight on 31 December. One grape is eaten at each sound of the bell and each grape is supposed to bring good luck for each month of the year ahead. In Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and some other Central and South American countries, people wear special underwear of different colours on New Year’s Eve. Red is supposed to be good for bringing love in the new year, while yellow is supposed to bring money.

Out with the old, in with the new

The new year is a perfect time to make a change for the better. The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is more common in the western hemisphere but also exists in the eastern hemisphere. This tradition involves a person making a commitment to change an unwanted habit or behaviour or setting a personal objective. Typical New Year’s resolutions might be to give up smoking, eat healthier food, do more exercise, become more organised or laugh more – but really, a New Year’s resolution can be almost anything. However, research suggests that many New Year’s resolutions fail. Being realistic about the objectives you set and not making too many New Year’s resolutions might help you to achieve success

Teaching Techniques

Here follow some ideas to help ELT teachers to improve their teaching skills

  1. Asking questions
    Asking targeted questions can help learners to pinpoint meaning. It’s often a good idea to start with closed questions, which offer a choice, before moving onto more open questions. For example, if you want to check the meaning of ‘I lived in Delhi’ you could ask:
    * Am I talking about the past, the present or the future? (the past) closed question * Do I live in Delhi now? (no) closed question * Tell me about a place where you lived before open question Remember that asking ‘What does this word mean?’ can be tricky for lower level learners. Think about how you would answer before asking this! Also, if you ask ‘Do you understand?’ it is easy for learners to answer ‘Yes!’, but you won’t really know unless you check properly. Some learners are reluctant to say when they don’t understand something.
  2. Asking learners to demonstrate
    Examples: ‘How do you look when you feel interested?’, ‘Point to something which is heavy’, ‘Show me what you do when you yawn’. Of course, this doesn’t work for everything. You could ask individuals or the whole class to demonstrate.
  3. Testing knowledge
    Giving learners an exercise to complete is one way of seeing how much they understand. There are lots of options: examples include a matching activity, wordsearch, crossword, writing words for definitions/writing definitions for words. Multiple choice activities probably need to be followed by another way of checking too, as learners may have just guessed! Learners need to be reassured that if they don’t know the answers, it’s OK!
  4. Using images
    Displaying an image and asking questions can be a good way to check understanding. For example, you could show a picture of a man in prison and ask ‘What has he done?’, to check the present perfect structure. Or simply show a picture of a word you want to check, like ‘ski resort’. You could ask younger learners to draw the item you want to check.
  5. Using translation
    You could ask learners for a translation, or give a translation and ask for the English word. Of course, not all words or phrases directly translate between languages, so this technique can be problematic. It can be useful for abstract concepts

Source: © British Council

Assessment Terminology

It is useful to think about different types of assessment in terms of its purpose. You can use the terminology in this section in this week’s discussions and when describing your current practice.

Formative assessment. This is the use of assessment to give the learner and the teacher information about how well something has been learnt so that they can decide what to do next. It normally occurs during a course, and informs the teaching that follows.

This can also be thought of as assessment forlearningSummative assessment. This evaluates a learner’s progress up to a certain point and provides a summary of where they are. Tests may be conducted at the end of year or the end of a course, for example.

This is also known as assessment oflearningContinuous. This means assessing aspects of learners’ language throughout their course and then producing a final evaluation result from these assessments. It might include a combination of formative and summative assessment.

Self-assessmentLearners are encouraged to assess their own progress, using specific criteria, which could include band descriptors such as those of the Common European Framework.Peer assessmentLearners are encouraged to assess each other, against specific criteria.