Idioms and the Language Learner
Contrasting English and Syrian Arabic
This paper investigates what types of idioms are most likely to be transferred while learning a second language. The subjects of the study were 120 advanced Syrian learners of English. The comprehension of 80 English idioms was tested by a multiple-choice test and an English-into-Syrian Arabic translation test. The same idioms were also tested for production by a Syrian Arabic-into-English translation test. Results showed that learners scored higher in the comprehension and production test of cognate idioms because of positive language transfer. Language transfer had a negative effect when processing English idioms which have false cognate equivalents in Syrian Arabic. However, with English idioms that have pragmatic equivalents and those which have no Syrian equivalents at all, the factor of transfer is replaced, as a strategy, by metaphoric association and pragmatic knowledge of the world. The study concludes that the degree of similarity to a native language idiom does not necessarily help in the process of idiom comprehension or production. Meanwhile, the linguistic differences between the English idiom and the Syrian idiom do not automatically lead to problems in comprehending L2 idioms.
Published online: 01 January 1998
Cited by 3 other publications
No author info given
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