Language Learner’s Surprises.

Some of the most fascinating examples of similarities and differences between different languages are found in idioms and set expressions. Language learners are often surprised when a rather unusual expression may have word-for- word equivalent in another language. Just as often, they may be surprised to find that an expression does not have an equivalent in another language, or this equivalent differs in many various and rather unusual for the language learner ways. Here are examples that have very similar equivalents in English, Spanish and Russian – the three language that, although related, are quite very far apart in most ways. So, let us compare them. English -To shed crocodile tears, Russian – Lit’ krokodilovy slyozy; English – To hit the ceiling,  Spanish – Tomar el cielo con las manos (To take the sky in one’s hands); English – To know something inside out, Russian – znat’ vdol’ I poperyok (To know something lengthwise and crosswise); English – To have nine lives, Spanish – Tener siete vidas (To have seven lives), Russian – Dvuzhil’niy (One with two lives); English – When in Rome do as the Romans do, Russian – V Tulu so svoim samovarom ne ezdyat (Don’t go to Tula – a city famous for its samovars – with your own samovar). On the other hand, there are no equivalents in English for the Spanish – Decir cuarto verdades (To tell four truths or to speak one’s mind freely); Spanish – Saber mas que las culebras (To know more than the snakes or to be cunning). At the same time no language seems to have an idiom or a set phrase for the English expression – to go bananas. It is important that language learners have some notion of the nature of the language they are going to learn, since that knowledge will help them in their language learning process. Knowing that the number of rules of a language are finite will make this task less striking. Using what language learners know about language they are going to learn will mean that there is less to learn. Recognizing that language is creative should help approach the task as a challenge that is open-minded rather than finite. Learning a language is a complex but well-defined process that is defined by the rules of the language and by similarities that languages may share.

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