With a few of my new classes last week we appointed an idiom secretary. Basically, when I (or indeed a student) said a useful phrasal verb or idiom during our discussions, I got one of the class to write it down.
This was language which they could ‘take away’ and use at their next English language event in town.
By the end of the lesson, we’d created quite a nice list of practical, frequent English collocations.
The first step in recording natural language in class usually involves me highlighting a useful phrasal verb or idiom which I’ve just said, giving some kind of signal for a student to write it down.
However, after some practice you’ll see that you become pretty adept at recognising language yourself off your own bat.
That is the goal – for you to recognise useful language on your own!
And although this week we had one idiom secretary, with time *everyone* will be their own idiom secretary and language detective.
Then together we can practise and recycle the new collocations.
Ultimately it’s a strategy to help you become more independent, to collect your own bank of useful phrases and expressions, and help you feel more at ease when speaking English to your American or British buddies.
Here’s an example of what I mean
Let’s say it’s Monday morning and I talk about my weekend:
Oh, man, I had a up and down weekend. I was knackered all of Saturday, so I didn’t get up to much. But on Sunday I bumped into a friend and we went for a coffee at the Savoy!
For an advanced class, they might be able to notice:
oh man – you can say this before you talk about something which surprised or angered you, for example.
up and down – a fixed binomial phrase
knackered – slang for ‘very tired’ (among Brits and Aussies)
I didn’t get up to much – I didn’t do much
I bumped into a friend – I ran into, I met by chance
This week Jitka was the first idiom secretary in one of the new classes. Not only did she write down all the biggies from me, but she added a few from the Cambridge CAE Use of English exam we had been looking at, which was really good.
Here’s 10 items from our list. Can you complete the missing letters? Answers are below – no peeping 😉
- When I was in Rome I managed to p_ _ k u_ some cool phrases.
- That’s a good answer, Bill. You’re s_ _ t o_!
- I’ve got a wh_le b_n_h of things which I need to move to Brno.
- Hey are you free? Let’s go and g_ _ b a coffee!
- I can’t quite remember his name….wait a second, it’ll c_m_ to me…
- Look there’s no need to get a hotel room. You can c_a_h o_ my couch.
- How did you hear about our business, through google or by w_ _d of m_u_h?
- I’m s_v_ng u_ f_ r a new car. Can’t wait to drive again after the accident.
- I was really hungry so I g_ _ b_ed a q_i_k b_te on the way home.
- He’s the first black Prime Minister. Wow, this is s_ch a b_g d_ _ l!
Answers and notes
Pick up some phrases | some Italian | an Italian 😉
Spot on = be absolutely correct
A whole bunch of things | books
(go and) grab a coffee = get, have a coffee
It’ll come to me = I’ll remember it in a sec
You can crash on my couch | at mine | at our place
Word of mouth = from a personal recommendation
Saving up for
Grabbed a quick bite ‘grab’ is used quite a bit in the UK and Australia in this way
Such a big deal = it’s important
Today’s take out
In your English lesson you hear a lot of language. In addition to taking note of what your teacher presents to you in terms of ‘the official lesson’, keep a sheet of paper handy and write down some useful phrases and expressions which you hear and which you believe you can use later on.
If this idea of recognising language is new to you, one way to start noticing is to ask your teacher to repeat a phrasal verb or idiom they just used, so that you have an extra second or two to write it down.
adept – good, skilled
She did it off her own bat – on her own, without help or without anyone asking her to do it
at ease – relaxed, comfortable
a biggie – something which is very big or successful
no peeping – don’t look
handy – here it means ‘close to you’. ‘Handy’ can also mean convenient.
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