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INTRODUCTION The main purpose of this thesis is to show the importance of collocations, idioms and

INTRODUCTION

The main purpose of this thesis is to show the importance of collocations, idioms and false friends and to present how these structures can affect a second language learner. This thesis is divided into three chapters, each of them pointing out the most important pieces of information about collocations, idioms and false friends. The first chapter contains the definitions and also the main classifications of a collocation, an idiom or a false friend, providing the most updated pieces of information available in this moment. To make this chapter more user-friendly, I divided it into five subchapters, making the navigation much easier between one concept and another. In addition, I highlighted the most important definitions and classifications by creating some helpful visual aids, in order to better organize the information. The second chapter is formed of seven subchapters, starting with “Learning and using the co-occurrences”. Here I presented the importance of collocations by giving some contrastive examples, pointing out that the usage a wrong collocation can completely change the meaning of a message. In the next subchapter, “Futuristic collocations” I made a connection between the virtual world and the usage of co-occurrences. I discovered that a collocation is very similar with

an Internet Search Engine, both of them relying on the words‟ frequency. I continued by presenting the most frequent type of idiom, a phrasal verb, by comparing it with a collocation and also explaining its constituent parts. Then, I made another comparison between a metaphor, a proverb and an idiom, pointing out the main similarities and differences.

The subchapter “Problematic idioms” presents the idioms that can be difficult for a foreign

learner, starting with the „frozen similes‟ and continuing with other opaque idioms. Moreover, the idioms are classified according to their provenience and topic, criteria that can be problematic even for the natives. In “Multimedia Idioms” I described the main sources that keep us in touch with these structures.

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In the last subchapter of the second chapter I presented the most common false friends that can be found in Romanian, French, German and Spanish, revealing that a false friend can be a language error but also a source of comic. The last chapter, contains vital pieces of information about the effects of these structures on the second language learners. They have to complete a survey that contains various questions about collocations, idioms and false friends. The results will be centralized analysed, compared and graphically represented in order to find and to highlight the most problematic structures.

In the last subchapter of the second chapter I presented the most common false friends that

INTRODUCERE

Scopul acestei lucrări de licență este de a arăta importanța colocațiilor, idiomurilor și a „prietenilor falși‟ (false friends), precum și de a prezenta modalitatea prin care acestea afectează un vorbitor de limbă străină. Această lucrare de licență este divizată în trei capitole, fiecare dintre acestea punând în evidență cele mai importante informații referitoare la colocații, idiomuri și „false friends‟. În primul capitol se regăsesc definițiile și clasificările acestor structuri, furnizând cele mai recente informații disponibile în acest moment. Pentru a face acest capitol mai ușor de parcurs, l-am împărțit în cinci subcapitole, făcând posibilă o navigare mult mai fluentă între o structură și cealaltă. În plus, am evidențiat cele mai importante definiții și clasificări realizând elemente vizuale ajutătoare în scopul unei bune organizări a informației. Cel de-al doilea capitol cuprinde șapte subcapitole, începând cu “Learning and using the co-occurrences”. Aici am prezentat importanța colocațiilor, oferind câteva exemple contrastive, punând în relief faptul că folosirea unei colocații greșite poate să modifice complet înțelesul unui mesaj. În următorul subcapitol “Futuristic Collocations” am realizat o legătură între lumea virtuală și folosirea acestor repetiții. Am descoperit că o colocație este foarte asemănătoare cu un motor de căutare, ambele bazându-se pe aceste repetiții.

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Am continuat prezentând cel mai frecvent tip de idiom, verbul frazal, comparându-l cu o colocație și explicându-i părțile componente. După aceea am realizat o altă comparație între o metaforă, un proverb și un idiom, punctând principalele diferențe și asemănări. Subcapitolul “Problematic Idioms” prezintă idiomurile care pot reprezenta o problemă pentru un student străin, începând cu “frozen similes” și continuând cu alte idiomuri cu înțeles ascuns. Mai mult decât atât, idiomurile sunt clasificate după temă și proveniență, criterii care pot pune probleme inclusiv nativilor. În subcapitolul “Multimedia Idioms” am descris principalele surse prin care menținem legătura cu aceste structuri. În ultimul subcapitol al primului capitol am prezentat cei mai comuni “prieteni falși” (false

friends) care se pot găsi în Română, Franceză, Germană și Spaniolă arătând că un “false friend” poate constitui atât o eroare lingvistică dar și o sursă a umorului. Ultimul capitol conține informații vitale despre efectele acestor structuri asupra acelora care învață o limbă străină. Aceștia trebuie să completeze un chestionar care conține o varietate de colocații, idiomuri și “false friends”. Rezultatele vor fi centralizate, analizate, comparate dar și reprezentate grafic pentru a găsi și evidenția cele mai

problematice structuri.

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CHAPTER I FAMILIARISING WITH THE TERMS

1.1 What is a collocation?

Collocations represent something new in the way human mind perceive and understand the language. The word „collocation‟ appeared for the first time in the sixteenth century, being influenced by the large amount of Latin words that were in circulation during that period.

From Latin collocare
From Latin collocare
Collocation
Collocation
col = to arrange
col = to arrange
CHAPTER I – FAMILIARISING WITH THE TERMS 1.1 What is a collocation? Collocations represent something new
locare = to place
locare = to place

A collocation can be defined in many ways. For instance in The English Oxford Dictionary published between 1884 and 1928 the word „collocation‟ is described as „the action of setting in a place or position, esp. of placing together with, or side by side with something else‟. Furthermore, this explanation is connected with the „arrangement of a words in a sentence‟ which partly clarifies the main use of a collocation. A comprehensive definition can be found in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary where a collocation is viewed as a „a word or phrase that is often used with another word or phrase, in a way that sounds correct to people who have spoken the language all their lives, but might not be expected from the meaning‟. This is an explanation of the fact that collocations can be problematic to the non-native speakers, because for them is hard to distinguish if a combination of words sounds better than another combination of words. Other dictionaries simply notice the main property of a collocation which is „the fact a word collocates with other words‟ or just contain an incomplete definition such as a grouping together of things in a certain order, as of the words in a sentence(Macmillan Dictionary). This second definition can be easily misunderstood, because the readers may believe that a collocation is in fact a group of any things that are organized in a certain order. Moreover, not only the words can co-locate but also the numbers so creating a direct connection between collocations and the study of language is practically impossible especially for the unexperienced language learners. It is to be noticed that a proper explanation of a collocation can only be found in the comprehensive, advanced or technical version of a dictionary, a difficult task for the

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foreign learners due to the lack of dictionaries‟ availability in their region. On the other hand, almost all the dictionaries have an on-line version so finding a definition or even a demonstration of how a word collocate with another one should not be a problem. However, a complete and detailed explanation can only be found in the linguistics books and articles. There are two main approaches in the study of collocations: first one is called „the frequency-based approach‟ 1 which points out what co-occurrences are more likely to be seen and which not, and the second one: the „phraseological approach‟ 2 in which the combinations of words are fixed to a certain degree. The first time when a collocation was treated as a new linguistic item was in 1957, when the linguist J.R. Firth published the article “Modes of meaning”. Here he draws a pattern of a collocation: “you shall judge a word by the company it keeps” (Firth, J. R. 1957:11). Firth underlines the importance of the context and also that a word cannot be treated or judged separately from its companion. The British linguist John Sinclair is an adept of a frequency-based approach, defining a

collocation as “the occurrence of two or more words within a short space of each other in a

text” (Sinclair 1991a: 170). This can be seen as a definition but also as a visual pattern. The „short space‟ is in fact a physical description of a collocation. Moreover, Sinclair suggests „two models of interpretation‟ 3 , the open-choice principle, also called „slot and filler‟ in which you have unlimited possibilities in combining a word, a phrase or a clause, paying attention only to the grammar correctness and the „idiom principle‟ where the attention is focused to the fact that some linguistic sets are not used randomly. He further explains that it is in human nature to use „semi-preconstructed phrases‟ because people live and experience similar linguistic situations. As a foreign learner or just a speaker of English you will probably experience the same linguistic clichés, so, collocations cannot be omitted neither in written, nor in spoken language. A.P.Cowie gives another perspective upon collocations because he does not rely on the frequency or on the random behaviour of this co-occurrences. Being an adept of the phraseological approach, he manages to distinguish a collocation from other groups of words such as idioms. This contrastive analysis is very useful in learning and using collocations because it shows exactly what changes may occur especially in the meaning of

1 Nadja Nesselhauf, Collocations in a Learner Corpus, John Benjamins Publishing Company 2005, page 12 2 Ibidem 3 John Sinclair, Corpus, Concordance, Collocation, Oxford University Press, 1991, page 109.

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a context: while a collocation preserves the literal meaning of the words, the idioms gives them a figurative one which can totally distort the message signification.

1.2 Classification of collocations

The most comprehensive classification of collocations can be found in The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English 4 . Here the collocations fall into:

Grammatical Collocations, consisting of a dominant word (noun, adjective, verb) and a preposition or a grammatical structure such as an infinitive or clause. This constructions have a special place in the study of collocations because they treat word combinations within a more complex grammatical structures being practically a very difficult task even for the native speakers. A short review of the dictionary reveals that grammatical collocations are organised as:

Noun + preposition combination (e.g. „a question about‟) Nouns followed by to + infinitive (e.g. „It was a shame to do it) Nouns that can be followed by a that clause (e.g. „The owners have reached an agreement that she should pay rent) Preposition + noun combinations (e.g. by mistake, on advance, on purpose, etc.) Adjective + preposition combination that occur in the predicate or as set-off attributes (e.g. Your parents were mad at you Mad at you, your parents did not let you outside Your parents, mad at you, did not let you outside. ) Predicate adjectives and a following to + infinitive (e.g. „It is expensive to eat here‟) Adjectives followed by that clause (e.g. „to be happy that you are getting married).

4 Morton Benson, Evelyn Benson, Robert Ilson, The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English: Your guide to collocations and grammar John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010, page 19

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Lexical Collocations are contrasting with the grammatical ones because they contain neither a grammatical structure nor an infinitive or a preposition. They are usually combinations of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs being easily recognizable for the English learners. Being more frequent than grammatical collocations, the lexical collocations need a highlighted classification of their constituent parts of speech. These are represented by:

Adjectives + nouns
Adjectives + nouns
Noun + of + noun
Noun + of + noun
Nouns + verbs (characteristic actions for the noun)
Nouns + verbs (characteristic
actions for the noun)
Verb + noun/pronoun/prep.phrase
Verb +
noun/pronoun/prep.phrase
Eradication/nullification verb + Noun
Eradication/nullification verb +
Noun
Adverbs and verbs
Adverbs and verbs
e.g. 'major problem', 'strong tea' , 'dark colour' etc.
e.g. 'major problem', 'strong tea' ,
'dark colour' etc.
e.g. 'a stroke of luck', 'a surge of anger', 'a sense of humor'
e.g. 'a stroke of luck', 'a surge of
anger', 'a sense of humor'
e.g. 'dogs bark', 'blood flows', 'bombs explode' etc.
e.g. 'dogs bark', 'blood flows',
'bombs explode' etc.
e.g. 'to make an impression', 'to launch a missle', 'to wind a watch' e.g. 'to break
e.g. 'to make an impression', 'to
launch a missle', 'to wind a watch'
e.g. 'to break a code', 'to suspend a
meeting', to cancel a mission'
e.g. 'to simply assume', 'to totally agree', 'to closely approximate'
e.g. 'to simply assume', 'to totally
agree', 'to closely approximate'

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Adverbs and adjectives
Adverbs and adjectives
e.g. 'very good', 'amazingly fast', 'absolutely perfect' etc.
e.g. 'very good', 'amazingly fast',
'absolutely perfect' etc.

Of course there are also other delimitations of collocations but this classification is

to prefer because it points out which parts of speech are likely to turn into a collocation. As an observation, there are some grammatical and lexical collocations that have a higher rate of expectation than others, the chance of using an adverb + adjective combination such as „very good‟ in a sentence being a lot higher than using an expression like „a surge of anger‟.

1.3 Idioms

Idioms require special attention because they represent a problem not only for the

learners but also for the native speakers. The term „idiom‟ comes from the Greek word „idios‟ which means „own‟ or „peculiar‟, illustrating so its private and strange meaning and

interpretation. There are a lot of questions about this phenomenon, but most of them will never get an answer. It is hard to explain why people need to encrypt the meaning of a message or how the human mind decrypts and understands this message. Analysing the dictionaries entries of the word „idiom‟ reveals that there are no major changes in the definition of this term. For example, The Cambridge English Dictionary

defines an idiom as being ‟a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own‟ while The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary points out that an idiom is „a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words‟. These definitions practically draw the main characteristic of an idiom, which is that the words that form this structure cannot be analysed separately, but as a complete entity which has its own predefined meaning. Moreover, the order of the words should remain intact because any substitution or re-

ordering of words can alter the idiom‟s meaning, creating just a simple string of words. Idioms represent a new and unknown subject for the most researchers and linguists. However, some of them managed to give a definition or a simple explanation of this phenomenon. For instance, the linguist Sam Glucksberg views idioms as a „subset of the fixed expressions in a language community‟ 5 and also refers to the „non-logical‟ nature of

5 Sam Glucksberg, Understanding Figurative Language From Metaphors to Idioms, Oxford University Press 2001, page 68

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these structures, more precisely to the fact that the meaning of an idiom cannot be decoded

by the meanings of its words

Other linguists view them as a mixture of many other

.. structures such as phrasal verbs, proverbs, metaphors, smiles, metonymies and others, being very difficult to give a comprehensive or a universal definition of an idiom. When comparing these idiomatic structures, both similarities and differences can be observed. For example, a proverb can behave like an idiom, but its meaning have a moralising purpose, fact that is not valid for all of these constructions. Moreover, there is a difference between how human mind understands and decodes these meanings, a proverb being easier to understand than a metaphor, structure used only to enrich and beautify the language.

1.4 Classification of Idioms

A classification of the idioms according to their type can be found in the Jürg Strässler‟s book, Idioms in English 6 . Here the idioms fall into:

Sayings (e.g. take the bull by the horns)

Proverbs (e.g. better late than never)

Phrasal verbs, the most frequent idioms (e.g. to take off, to show off)

Prepositional verbs (e.g. to rely on, to look after)

Tournure idioms (e.g. to kick the bucket)

Binomials (e.g. spick and span)

Frozen Similes (e.g. as cool as a cucumber)

Ungrammatical but general accepted expressions (e.g. who did you see)

Logical connective prepositional phrases (e.g. on the other hand)

Phrasal compounds (e.g. White House)

Incorporating verb idioms (e.g. to baby-sit)

Formula expressions (e.g. at first sight)

This is the most comprehensive but also the most disputed classification because some linguists believe that a distinction between a saying and a proverb is unnecessary because both of this structures have a similar definition and behaviour. Others don‟t distinguish between the phrasal verbs and the prepositional verbs or between the frozen similes and binomials.

6 Jürg Strässler, Idoms in English A pragmatic analysis, Gunter Narr Verlag

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1982, page 15

The American linguist Adam Makkai distinguishes two types of idioms 7 :

Idioms of encoding/‟Phraseological idioms‟ (structures that are easy to find by comparing them with another languages). Here, Makkai underlines the fact that most European countries use the preposition „with‟ instead of „at‟ in instances such as: to drive with 50km/h instead of „to drive at 50km/h‟. What is more interesting is that this type of idiom has a literal meaning, feature that is incompatible with the idiomatic structure but perfectly compatible with the collocation‟s pattern. As a result, an idiom of encoding is equivalent with a collocation. Idioms of decoding/‟Genuine semantic idioms‟ (structures that are not easy to identify because of their cryptic meaning). These idioms can also be classified into:

Lexemic Idioms

o

Phrasal verbs

o

Phrasal compound

o

Tournure idioms

o

Irreversible binominals

o

Incorporating verbs

o

Pseudo-idioms (another label of the binominals)

Sememic idioms

o

Proverbs

o

Familiar quotations

William J. Sullivan observes two main differences between the lexemic and the sememic idioms. First one is that the sememic idioms are at a higher and abstract linguistic level. The second one is that the words that form a sememic idiom preserve their „normal language function‟ 8 .

Another classification is made by the psychologist Sam Glucksberg 9 . He identifies four types of idioms according to their composition and transparency:

Noncompositional

Noncompositional

Noncompositional
  • 7 Adam Makkai, Idiom structure in English, Mouton, 1972, page 25

8 W ll am J. Sull va

, art cl

‘Id omat c ty as a la

ua

u

v

rsal’, pa

e 143

  • 9 Sam Glucksberg, Understanding Figurative Language From Metaphors to Idioms, Oxford University Press, 2001, page 74

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In this type of idiom doesn‟t exit any relationship between its constituents, but the meaning can be discerned. (e.g. „by and large‟ = generally, on the whole)

Compositional Opaque

Compositional

Opaque

Compositional Opaque

The relationship between its elements and the meaning of this idiom is opaque, but the meaning of the individual words constrain their interpretation. Here, the author explains

that after learning an idiom‟s meaning, its constituent parts can achieve their own idiomatic meaning. For example, in the idiom „to spill the beans‟, the verb „to spill‟ acquires its own secondary sense, meaning „to reveal‟.

Compositional Transparent

Compositional

Transparent

Compositional Transparent

This idioms have „one-to-one semantic relations‟ between their constituents and the components of their meaning. For instance, while analysing the idiom „to break the ice‟, the author reveals that the verb „to break‟ has an idiomatic sense of changing an uncomfortable situation whilst the noun „ice‟ represents an „interpersonal tension‟.

Quasi-Metaphorical

Quasi-Metaphorical

Quasi-Metaphorical

The meaning of these idioms can be transmitted through their allusional content.

Furthermore, they reflect upon a „prototypical or stereotypical instance of an entire

category of people, situations or actions‟. They can function and behave the same as the nominal metaphors, referring to an ideal concept and characterize a situation according to that concept. (e.g. „skating on thin ice). It is easy to be seen that studying idioms can be a very difficult task for the foreign learners but most of all for the beginners or unexperienced learners. In order to decrypt, to

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understand and to use idioms, learners should have at least an intermediate level of English and knowledge about the respective subject matter.

1.5 Introducing a „false friend‟

The term „false friends‟, translated from the French „faux amis‟ was developed by Maxime Koessler and Jules Dorecquigny in the year 1928, pointing out that the study of this phenomenon has been an interesting matter for almost one hundred years. Basically, the definition of this term relies on the fact that identical words from one language may have a completely new meaning in other language. The Oxford English Dictionary points out that a false friend is „a word or expression that has a similar form to one in a person‟s native language, but a different meaningwhile The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary is also giving a hint of its behaviour „a word that is often confused with a word in another language with a different meaning because the two words look or sound similarThe Spanish writer Pedro José Chamizo Domínguez defines false friends as „those words who share their signifiers but differ totally or partially as regards their meanings‟ 10 , using the Saussure‟s concept of viewing a linguistic sign, by revealing the existence of a signified and signifier 11 :

Signified "Emergency Exit" Signifier French word "Issue"
Signified
"Emergency
Exit"
Signifier
French word
"Issue"
Signified "Problem" Signifier English word "Issue"
Signified
"Problem"
Signifier
English word
"Issue"

The scheme shows that even if the signifier remains the same, a substantial change can occur at the signified level, being practically impossible to guess the real meaning of

this word without consulting a dictionary. It can be observed that the word „issue‟ has the

10 Pedro José Chamizo Domínguez, Semantics and Pragmatics of False Friends, Routlege, 2008 page 15 11 Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguisics, Philosophical Library, 1959, page 66

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same form in both languages but the pronunciation is not similar, being somehow a hint to the fact that these words have different meanings.

Pedro Domínguez also notices this fact and categories:

classifies false friends into two

Homographs (words that have the same spelling/are graphically the same) Homophones (words that have the same pronunciation/are phonetically the same)

He further makes a distinction between:

Chance False Friends (words that are graphically or phonetically the same but without any etiological or semantic reason) Semantic False Friends (words that have an etiological or a semantic reason) which can contain both „regular‟ idioms and also loanwords, words that were borrowed and introduced into a language without any translation.

The most comprehensive classification a false friend was realised by another Spanish linguist, Rubén Chacón-Beltrán. He manages to distinguish a false friend „from a „true friend‟ and has a contrastive approach upon these two terms. Moreover, he analyses the types of cognate and false friends present in the CCFV 12 . Here the cognate words fall into 13 :

1)

True Cognates: Phonetic (This words are called „true‟ because they have the same meaning in both source language and target language). Their particularity is that

their pronunciation is very similar. The English word „vocabulary‟ sounds very

similar with the Spanish word „vocabulario‟. This type of cognate can be very useful when learning a new language especially for the auditory learners.

2)

True Cognates: Graphic (Very similar with the phonetic ones, the main difference being only that they don‟t sound the same in both languages). The English word

„ocean‟ doesn‟t have the pronunciation of the Spanish word océano. 3) Partial False Friends: Phonetic (This words have a main meaning in one language, while in other languages have different meanings). When is translated

  • 12 Clasificación de Cognados Verdaderos y Falsos

  • 13 Rubén Chacón-Beltrán, Towards a typological classification of false friends (Spanish-English), Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada, 2006, page 25

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into Spanish, the English verb „to attend‟ turns into the Spanish „atender‟ which means „to assist‟ but also achieving a new meaning: „to pay attention‟. 4) Total False Friends: Phonetic (This word gains a completely new meaning from one language to another). The English word „to assist‟ doesn‟t have the same meaning of the Spanish word „asistir‟. 5) Partial False Friends: Graphic (Similar to the partial phonetic false friends). The English word „demand‟ has also a new meaning in French, the word „demande‟

also means „requisition‟. 6) Total False Friends: Graphic (Similar to the total phonetic false friends, the only dissimilarity being that these words may not sound the same, even if they look

similar in both languages). The English word „ignore‟ has the same form with the French word „ignore‟ but the former means „not to know‟.

Broadly speaking, these are the main characteristics of the collocations, idioms and false friends. By reading this chapter, a foreign learner can find useful, valuable and up-to- date information about these structures. However, applying this theory in the real-world activities may represent a major problem for both the speaker and the listener. First of all, as a speaker, a learner will try to avoid using an idiom in a conversation by simply rendering the same idea with other words. On the other hand, the listener will have no choice but finding the respective idiom in a dictionary, or making the respective speaker to reformulate the idea. The worst moment is when one or both of the conversation participants don‟t even realize that something is wrong with the content of the message. This phenomenon will arise especially in a conversation between two or more non-native speakers because their native language interfere with the second language, resulting many

linguistic „anomalies‟ such as false friends or the inappropriate use of the idioms and

collocations.

In order to clarify, simplify and understand the meaning and the proper use of these structures, the next chapter will not contain just synthetic pieces of information, but also everyday examples and instances, being more learner-friendly.

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CHAPTER II – I AM SO CONFUSED…

2.1 Learning and using the co-occurrences

The most interesting period of our lives was the moment when we first speak our native language, but the question is how did we learn this language? The linguist Stephen Krashen distinguishes between language acquisition14 (which is a subconscious process) and language learning(which is represented by conscious learning). According to this theory, children are acquiring their native language, without being consciously aware about the correctness of the words they use. On the other hand, a second language can be „learnt‟ because of the awareness about the rules and the correctness of the respective language but it can also be „acquired‟. Between these two types of learning is only a thin border because it is hard to find if an information was consciously learnt or if it was part of the subconscious. This theory can also be applied in the learning of collocations, idioms and false friends, being very interesting to find if these structures are learnt or acquired by both native and non-native speakers. First of all, the natives should not have any problems when using collocations because this co-occurrences are used more frequent than idioms, so they should have already been a part of their subconscious. Idioms however, because of their peculiar meaning are very hard to acquire for the reason that their interpretation needs to be taken for granted. For a second language learner, both idioms and collocations need to be learnt by heart because these structures can be affected by similar structures of their native language. A good example is the comparison between the collocations to travel by plane‟ and the Romanian „a călători cu avionul‟. Translated word for word into English, the Romanian expression turns into „to travel with plane‟ which forms an unacceptable structure.

14 Stephen D Krashen, Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition, Pergamon Press Inc., 1982, page 10

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TO TRAVEL BY PLANE
TO TRAVEL
BY PLANE
TO TRAVEL BY PLANE TO TRAVEL WITH PLANE Analyzing this example, reveals that collocations formed of
TO TRAVEL BY PLANE TO TRAVEL WITH PLANE Analyzing this example, reveals that collocations formed of

TO TRAVEL

WITH PLANE

Analyzing this example, reveals that collocations formed of a preposition + a noun or a verb represent a real problem for the foreign students, because they tend to translate the structure into their own language and to keep the respective preposition. This fact can be somehow justified because most of the European countries, especially the Latin ones,

share the same prepositions, so the learners may believe that they can use them in any language. Therefore these types of collocations need special attention because apart from the faulty use of the tenses, these constructions represent an infinite source of mistakes. To better understand this error, let‟s imagine a dialogue between a married couple in which Speaker A is an English wife and Speaker B is a Romanian husband:

(The husband receives a phone call during his travelling from London to Bucharest):

TO TRAVEL BY PLANE TO TRAVEL WITH PLANE Analyzing this example, reveals that collocations formed of

A: Where are you? B: I have just arrived at Paris.

When translated into Romanian, the husband‟s affirmation „Abia am ajuns la Paris‟, makes sense because it means „I have just arrived to Paris‟. On the other side, Paris is also a girl‟s name, so the structure „at Paris‟ means that the husband has reached the destination of a girl named Paris. As you can see, just by simply using a wrong collocation all the conversation can be compromised, and in this particular case also their marriage. The second type of collocation which needs special attention is the adjective + noun structure because it is hard to explain why a noun like „coffee‟ for instance, collocates only with the adjective „strong‟ and not with other synonyms like „powerful‟ or „hard‟. In fact there is no explanation of this fact. Translating the collocation „strong coffee‟ into French will result „café fort‟, but „fort‟ is also synonym with „puissant‟ or „solide‟. The same thing happens with the Romanian „cafea tare‟, the adjective „tare‟ is also synonym with

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„puternic‟ or „solid‟. As we have seen, this phenomenon cannot be explained, because the

words collocate in all languages. However, there is one more thing to be mentioned about this type of collocation. Nowadays, living in a technological era, it is normal that a lot of electronic devices to populate the market. Because almost all of these gadgets were developed in North America they somehow maintain their name in other countries too: either directly such as the case of „computer‟ or „modem‟, or just translated such as „tabletă‟ from the English „tablet‟. There are also some devices that have a name formed of two words such as the words „smartphone‟, „smartwatch‟ or „smart TV‟. These words are something new even for the native speakers because as you can

see the first two words are actually a combination between an adjective and a noun which form a single word while the last one behaves normally.

Thus, it is hard to say if the words „smart‟ and „phone‟ collocates but the truly „anomaly‟ is that other electronic devices are not „smart‟ but just „powerful‟ as in the case

of a computer for example.

„puternic‟ or „solid‟. As we have seen, this phenomenon cannot be explained, because the words collocate
„puternic‟ or „solid‟. As we have seen, this phenomenon cannot be explained, because the words collocate

There is practically no real difference because a computer can be as smart as a smartphone and a smartphone as powerful as a computer.

„puternic‟ or „solid‟. As we have seen, this phenomenon cannot be explained, because the words collocate
„puternic‟ or „solid‟. As we have seen, this phenomenon cannot be explained, because the words collocate

This phenomenon can be explained however, a new name had to be „invented‟ because these devices are no longer regular mobile phones and maybe the term „powerful phone‟ should not have sound as good as „smartphone‟. What is more interesting is that this „anomaly‟ was also borrowed in other languages. In Romanian for example a „powerful computer‟ is „calculator performant‟ while a „smartphone‟ is „telefon inteligent‟.

In addition to these types of collocations, another category draws my attention, being also the most frequent co-occurrence especially in the spoken language. Usually in a

dialogue, one of the participants agrees on denies something by using the expressions „very good‟ or „absolutely not‟ or may just point out some particularities of an object such as:

„this car is amazingly fast‟ or „this painting is absolutely perfect‟. The interesting thing

17

about a collocation formed of an adverb and an adjective or a verb is the fact that even if they are exceedingly used in everyday speech, they don‟t represent a problem for the foreign learner. The chances of hearing „this painting is very perfect‟ or „this car is absolutely fast‟ are very low. The explanation of this phenomenon relies on the fact that

after being intensively used in spoken language the learners have directly acquired them not as individual words but as a complete structure. These structures can be acquired either from real-world conversations or by simply hearing or seeing the respective construction in a movie, song, book, magazine or advertisement. It is to be mentioned that some collocations cannot be eluded or replaced by other structures. An expression like „extremely painful‟ can be easily reformulated by using another synonym of the adverb „extremely‟ such as „very‟ but a collocation formed of a noun and a characteristic verb cannot be rendered by using another words. For instance, „the dogs bark‟ cannot be reformulated because this is a general truth so replacing „dogs‟ with „cats‟ or „bark‟ with „meow‟ will mislead the collocation‟s meaning. Collocations are also important for the fact that they can reflect your language level. For example, let‟s pretend that a pupil has to write a composition with the title „One day in London:

One day in London

„I arrived at London on 8 a.m. in the morning. I drank a cup of hard coffee on a restaurant and then I observed that the weather was absolutely hot so I took down my jacket. I visited the main city attractions travelling with a double-decker bus. It was a high experience that I will never forget.‟

One day in London „I arrived at London on 8 a.m. in the morning. I drank

For a teacher it is easy to evaluate the English knowledge of this pupil only by analyzing the collocations present in this composition. Furthermore the teacher can also observe that this pupil‟s level is somewhere between elementary and pre-intermediate. However, the teacher can be wrong because even the intermediate and post-intermediate English learners can encounter difficulties when using collocations. This fact can be easily explained: while some learners have already acquired the information, others are just struggling to learn the information. It is absolutely normal that not all the learners to have

18

the same productive and receptive skills, but a good teacher should always find a solution that it is suitable for everyone. Learning collocations should be a concern for both the teachers and the learners because these structures enables a user to speak and write correctly but also makes the respective user more confident when using the respective language.

2.2 Futuristic collocations

After discussing about the definition, characteristics, learning process and the importance of a collocation, it is time to understand what the future prospects of these co- occurrences are. Nowadays, in a world dominated by technology, people use collocations not only in real-world but also in virtual world. What is more interesting is that they do not even realize that these co-occurrences exist all over the Internet. The best example in this case are the Search Engines, the most visited sites around the world. Basically, a search engine is based on the same principle as a collocation: it analyzes the co-occurrences between the words, and also their rate of expectation during an Internet-based search. It is to be mentioned that some collocations tend to replace others as in the case of the adjective + noun „funny videos‟. Noun „video‟ also collocates with the adjective „amusing‟ but because of its reduced frequency, the expression „amusing videos‟ practically does not exist in the search engines‟ databases:

The number of search engine results

the same productive and receptive skills, but a good teacher should always find a solution that

„amusing videos‟

„funny videos‟

Increase (in percentage)

Google Romania

  • 53.300.000 1.630.000.000

+ 67,31%

Google France

  • 10.700.000 1.650.000.000

+ 93,52%

Google Germany

  • 29.100.000 1.640.000.000

+ 82,26%

Google Spain

  • 15.100.000 1.640.000.000

+ 90,80%

Average

  • 31.033.333 1.640.000.000

+ 83,47%

17%
17%

The representation of the frequency rate

  • 19 (in percentage)

According to the previous scheme, it is clearly that the number of results of the collocation „funny videos‟ dominates over other adjectives + noun „video‟ structures. However, these results are purely informative because the search engine has its own algorithm that also includes synonyms, translation and rank factors. What is more interesting is that the word „amusing‟ also exists in other languages (German „amüsant„, French „amusant‟, Romanian „amuzant‟) but even so, almost all the foreigners combine the adjective „funny‟ with the noun „video‟. In fact, from 10 sites, more than 8 contain this collocation, fact that points out the tendency of massive replacing of some word combinations with another. As a consequence, it is very possible that in the near future some collocations to be completely substituted by some alternative combinations.

2.3 Phrasal verbs: idioms or collocations?

Idioms represent a major source of confusion for the foreign learners. First of all, a distinction between a collocation and an idiom needs to be made. When comparing the collocation „to take into consideration‟ with the phrasal verb „to take offit is hard to say whether the first or the second one is a collocation or a phrasal verb. However, the difference can be observed at the level of meaning, while the collocation preserves somehow its literal meaning, the phrasal verb „to take off‟ acquires a new one:

Example

Literal

Idiomatic

Actual meaning

meaning

meaning

„to take into consideration

X

-

-

„to take off

-

X

to start flying

Phrasal verbs are the most frequent idioms, so learning them should be mandatory for the foreign learners. They consist of a verb + a particle, for instance the „to take‟ and the particle „off‟. The easiest way of learning this structures is to understand the particles

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and their function but also to recognize the verbs that are more likely to transform into a phrasal verb. There are many verbs and particles that can that can generate a phrasal verb, but now let‟s analyze the most frequent particles, „off‟ and „on‟ and see their meaning and also the verbs that are connected with them.

The particle „off‟ may possess the following meanings:

1)

Leaving places (one of the meanings is that of leaving different places by someone or something). The verbs connected with this meaning are 15 :

and their function but also to recognize the verbs that are more likely to transform into

Example

Actual meaning

The aircraft will lift off in a few moments.

The aircraft leaves the ground

Martha did not send off the letter.

To send a letter by post

This is my room so clear off!

To leave a place quickly

In order to join the conference we must slip off immediately.

To quietly leave a place, without alerting anyone

Joey should head off at 4 a.m., just before the sunrise.

To leave a place or star a journey

2) Ending or changing state:

Example

Actual meaning

Your father will come and see you off the train station tomorrow.

To go in the train station and say goodbye

After a long speech, the student broke off in the middle of the lecture

The student suddenly stopped speaking

15 Michael McCarthy, Felicity O'Dell, English Phrasal Verbs In Use, Cambridge University Press, 2004, page 34

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3) Other uses of the particle „off‟

Example

Actual meaning

My friends made me to put off the idea of going on a trip.

To postpone the idea of going on a trip

They should hold off and go shopping.

To delay doing something

Billy didn‟t get offended by the joke; he just laughed it off.

To make something unpleasant less important

The particle „on‟ may hold the following meanings:

Example

Actual meaning

You need to try on these brown leather shoes.

To see if a piece of clothing fits on you

Although you are very sick, try to put on a happy face when we arrive at his birthday.

To pretend that you feel in a particular way

I feel that something is weighting on my mind.

Upsetting, Worrying

1)

It is directly connected with the basic physical meaning of „on‟

2) It is used in order to induce an idea of further or an idea of dependence

Example

Actual meaning

She never relies on her siblings.

To be confident that someone will give you support.

In order to pass your exams you have to keep on learning.

To continue to do something

If you are not interested in reading this comic book, pass it on to another student.

To give something further

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As we have seen, working with phrasal verbs may represent a problem for learners because they have to determine and use the correct combination between a verb and its particle. Moreover, any mistake at this level can completely change the meaning of this structure. However, phrasal verbs are not the most difficult idioms because they have a short structure, consisting only of a verb + an adverb or a preposition. In addition, they are frequently used, being easier for the foreign learners to understand and to use them in everyday activities.

As we have seen, working with phrasal verbs may represent a problem for learners because they
As we have seen, working with phrasal verbs may represent a problem for learners because they
As we have seen, working with phrasal verbs may represent a problem for learners because they
As we have seen, working with phrasal verbs may represent a problem for learners because they
As we have seen, working with phrasal verbs may represent a problem for learners because they

2.4 Metaphor, Proverb or Idiom?

It is hard to determine whether a structure is an idiom or not. The main classification criterion in represented by the encryption level of a word construction. For example let‟s analyze the meaning of the metaphors: my house is a prison‟ and „the clouds sail across the sky‟. As you can notice, the meaning of these structures can be easily decrypted by any foreign learner, because they are in fact quasi-metaphorical idioms, used in order to beautify and enrich the vocabulary of a language. Therefore, metaphors do not represent a problem for learners because their meaning doesn‟t usually change from one language to another. A good example is „marriage: a souvenir of love‟ 16 , metaphor that can be translated word for word into another language without affecting its meaning: in Romanian „căsătoria: suvenir al dragostei‟ has exactly the same form and the same meaning as the English version. This phenomenon also occurs in the study of the proverbs, structures that are different from metaphors because of their meaning nature. Proverbs represent a vital characteristic of a language because they are „generally known sentences of the folk which contain wisdom, truth, morals and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed form which is handed down from generation to generation17 . It is clear that the main difference between a proverb and a metaphor in that a proverb it is not used only to enrich the language but it also contains a complex moralizing message. For instance the metaphor „love is a rose‟, is used to beautify the language, pointing out the ephemerality of love. On the other hand, a proverb like “whom the Gods love die young”

16 Helen Rowland, Reflections of a Bachelor Girl, Dodge Publishing Company, 1909 page 44 17 Wolfgang Mieder, Proverbs: A handbook Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, page 4

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has a platonic and more complex meaning because it is believed that Gods need young people in order to be with them in the afterlife. A further analysis of this proverb reveals the fact that it has been used since the existence of the Ancient Greek, being actually an expression based on a myth, so in order to completely understand its connotation, a foreign learner also needs additional knowledge about the Greek Mythology. Proverbs are considered „sememic idioms‟, a more transparent type of idioms because most of their meaning can be deduced from their constituent parts. However, there are some proverbs with a cryptic meaning such as „a cat may look at a king‟ or „every dog has its day‟ that can be considered opaque idioms, because their constituent parts don‟t point out the actual meaning.

As a conclusion, proverbs can behave as both transparent and opaque idioms, but even so, they should not represent a problem for a foreign student, mostly because they can exist under the same form or as an equivalent in almost all languages, their meaning being part of common knowledge of a large amount of population. For instance let‟s analyze the proverbs „there is no place like home‟ and an eye for an eye, a tooth for a toothand see whether differences exist or not:

has a platonic and more complex meaning because it is believed that Gods need young people

English

- There is no place like home

- An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

has a platonic and more complex meaning because it is believed that Gods need young people

Spanish

- No hay nada como el hogarbesten

-Ojo por ojo, diente por diente

has a platonic and more complex meaning because it is believed that Gods need young people

Romanian

- “Nicăeri nu-i ca acasă”

- Ochi pentru ochi și dinte pentru dinte

has a platonic and more complex meaning because it is believed that Gods need young people

German

-Ob Osten, ob Westen, zu Hause ist's am

-“Auge um Auge, Zahn um Zahn“

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It can be observed that there is not a significant difference between these proverbs‟ forms, in German the meaning of the proverb „there is no place like home‟ is being rendered using the expression „whether East or West, home is the best‟, construction that does not affect the final meaning of the proverb. These constructions should not represent a problem for a foreign learner, but in some cases both metaphors and proverbs can possess an opaque meaning. The best example is represented by the frozen similes, a type of metaphor that cannot be easily

 

Contain wisdom, morals

Their meaning cannot be decrypted

Make the language more vivid

Proverbs

X

-

X

Metaphors

-

-

X

Frozen Similes

-

X

X

decrypted by a foreign learner.

2.5. Problematic idioms

Beside the phrasal verbs, which represent a great source of mistakes, an English learner will also have to deal with other idiomatic structures. A good example is, as I have already mentioned, a frozen simile, idiom that compare two distinct terms such „cool as a cucumber‟, giving the learner no hint about its meaning. By hearing this idiom, a foreign learner will immediately imagine a vegetable and not an expression that means „extremely calm‟. It is to be observed that not all the similes are idioms. For instance, the idiom „clear as a crystal‟ has a literal meaning where some of its constituent parts can be replaced with others: „clear as water. As an observation, frozen similes are not as frequent as phrasal verbs, so a foreign learner is likely encounter difficulties in using any of them. Some of the most common frozen similes can be found in the following table:

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Frozen simile

Meaning

“as dumb as an oyster”

Someone who will never reveal a secret

“dead as a dodo”

Someone that has gone out of fashion

as nice as pie

Someone that is „as nice as pie‟, is

surprisingly kind and friendly

as keen as mustard

To be very eager or motivated

as slippery as an eel

Someone that avoids answering questions

like a cat on hot bricks

Someone that is very nervous or restless

like a headless chicken

A person that acts without thinking or analysing the situation carefully

as good as gold

Someone that is obedient and well-behaved

as mad as a hatter

Someone that is very strange or insane

as thick as thieves

Two people that are „as thick as thieves‟ are

very loyal friends

“as pleased as punch”

Someone that feels satisfied about something

“like a broken record”

Someone that repeats itself

like a bear with a sore head

Someone that is very irritable and bad- tempered;

“straight as a ramrod”

Someone who looks very serious;

There are also other types of idioms that can represent a problem for a foreign learner. For instance, the expression „to play your cards right‟ actually describes someone that needs to take advantage of every opportunity. Again, an idiom like „to sell someone short‟ means to underestimate someone, significance that cannot be deduced from its constituent parts. As an observation, between these two idioms exists a transparency difference, because the first one has its origins in a card game, while the second one is completely opaque. However, this characteristic doesn‟t affect the way learners perceive idioms because when they discover such constructions, they will immediately try to make a connection between the idioms‟ constituent parts and their meaning, procedure that is not accepted. Moreover, some will try to translate the idiom and to find other expressions that are very similar with the respective form. Neither of these methods are accepted because idioms cannot be translated, their meaning being topic and culture specific. As a result, in many dictionaries, idioms are organized according to their topic and country, classification that points out the fact that idioms can be different even between the

26

countries that share the same native language. In addition, some idioms were introduced from certain domains such as: sport, business, music etc., being better understood by the people that are in touch with these activities. Examples of topic-specific idioms:

Business:

“To compare apples with oranges” = to make an invalid comparison; “Ace up your sleeve” = to have something in reserve with which you can gain an advantage; “Blue chip company” = a company with a solid reputation; “Cash cow” = a regular source of income; “Foot in the door” = to have a successful start; “Lame duck” = an organization or person that cannot manage without help; “Monkey business” = an activity organized in a deceitful way;

Sports:

 

“To go overboard” = to do or say more than you need to;

“Learn the ropes” = to understand new things;

“Plenty of other fish in the sea” = many other men and women to date;

“Out of someone‟s league” = to not be good enough for someone;

Music:

 

“To blow your own trumpet” = to boast about your achievements;

“Swan song” = the final act before dying or ending something;

“It takes two to tango” = when something goes wrong, neither side is

completely innocent; “Face the music” = when you have to accept the consequences of your

actions; “Jazz something up” = when someone tries to improves something;

“Strike a false note” = to do something wrong or inappropriate;

Body:

 

“Bite someone‟s head off” = to strongly criticize someone;

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“One hand washes the other” = when people work together, there is a better chance of a achieving results” “More than meets the eye” = things are more complicated that they appear to be; “Make no bones about something ” = someone that doesn‟t hesitate to say something in a frank and open way; To be down in the mouth” = when someone looks unhappy, depressed or discouraged;

Travel and transport:

“To miss the boat” = fail to take advantage of an opportunity because you wasn‟t quick enough

“Ships that pass in the night” = people that are unlikely to meet again;

“Cart before the horse” = someone that is doing things in the wrong

order; “To kick the can down the road” = to delay a decision, hoping that the

problem will disappear; To jump on the bandwagon” = to get involved in something that has recently been very popular;

“Wheels within wheels” = complex processes that are hard to be understood;

Idioms are not only language-specific but also country-specific, their meaning being easily decrypted by the inhabitants but opaque to foreigners. A good example is represented by the particular idioms present in American English, Australian English and British English. Examples of country-specific idioms:

American English:

“One hand washes the other” = when people work together, there is a better chance of

“Uncle Sam” = the governor of the USA;

 

“From

Missouri”

=

someone

that

require

clean

proof

before

believing something; “Big Apple” = New York

 

“Duck soup” = something that is very easy

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“New York minute” = something that happens really fast;

 

“Whole ball of wax” = everything

“Whistling Dixie” = someone that talk about

things in

a more

positive way, comparing with the reality; “In the catbird seat” = someone that is in an advantageous position;

British English:

 “To spend a penny” = to go to the toilet; “Double Dutch” = something that
“To spend a penny” = to go to the toilet;
“Double Dutch” = something that is completely incomprehensive;
“To send someone to Coventry” = to refuse to talk or cooperate with
someone;
“Queer fish” = a strange person;
“Man on the Clapham omnibus” = the ordinary person in the street;
 “Banana skin” = something that is an embarrassment or causes
problems;

Australian English:

 “New York minute” = something that happens really fast;  “Whole ball of wax” =

To cut down the tall puppies” = to criticize people who stand out from the crowd; Talk the legs on an iron pot” = someone who is very talkative; To be on a wallaby truck” = someone who is unemployed; she will be apples” = everything will be all right;

As an observation, the same idioms may have a different meaning from one

country to another. A good example is „wallflower‟, idiom that in American English describes „a shy person who is not asked to dance‟, while in British English „a woman

politician given an unimportant government position so that the government can pretend it takes women seriously‟. This very different interpretation can be a real problem for a foreign learner, so studying the idioms provenience should be a mandatory task. There are also cases where the form of the idioms can alternate between one country and another. Linguist Rosamund Moon, observes the main differences between

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American and British idioms and points out the parts of speech which are more likely to vary 18 :

Verbs :

  • - Cut a long story short” (BrE) – “Make a long story short” (AmE) = to leave out details in a narration;

  • - Let off steam” (BrE) – “Blow off steam (AmE) = to do or say something that helps you to get rid of strong feelings or energy;

Noun or noun modifier :

  • - Red as a beetroot” (BrE) – “Red as a beet” (AmE) = to have a red

face because you are embarrassed;

  • - Wear the trousers” (BrE) – “Wear the pants” (AmE) = to be the person who controls a relationship, (especially in a marriage);

Idiosyncratic distinctions

  • - If the cap fits (wear it)” (BrE) – “If the shoe fits (wear it)” (AmE)

= used to tell someone that they should accept a criticism that another person has made;

  • - Have green fingers” (BrE) – “Have green thumb” (AmE) = the ability to make plants grow;

Prepositional variation

  • - At a pinch” (BrE) - In a pinch” (AmE) = something that can be done if it is really necessary, but it will be difficult, not perfect, or not what you would really like;

  • - On the cards” (BrE) – “In the cards” (AmE) = to be likely to happen;

These form differences do not affect the meaning of the idioms so they should not represent a problem for a foreign learner. This is a generally presentation of the major difficulties that the foreign learners will encounter using idioms. After reading this, they should be able to understand the importance of these structures and to realize that a good level of English can be achieved only by learning and properly using idioms.

18 Rosamund Moon, Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English, Oxford University Press, 1998, page 133

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2.6 Multimedia idioms

Nowadays, we are permanently exposed to a large amount of idiomatic expressions. The main source is represented by papers, magazines, books, but also Internet sites, music and movies. In fact idioms are part of our lives, because they exist in almost every text or multimedia content. During a movie or a TV show it is impossible not to hear a phrasal verb, or any other idiomatic expression, but the question is how the foreigners understand the meaning of these expressions? A quick answer will be that during a movie, they will simply read the subtitles, a good but also a bad method, because idioms cannot be translated and even for an experienced translator, finding a translation equivalent will be sometimes an impossible task. Moreover, learners can be confused by the contrast between a movie scene and its subtitles. For instance, the idiom „Big apple” is frequently used to describe an American city, but when the learner sees that the meaning of this idiom is actually “New York”, he

may believe that is a translation error where the picture does not match with the subtitles. However, seeing this association again and again, the human mind will eventually make a connection between the image, the sound and the translated meaning, being sometimes a very good method of learning idioms, where the information is not only learnt but it can be also acquired. Another good method of discovering and learning idioms is represented by the songs‟ lyrics. Everyone has a favourite artist and a favourite melody, and almost everyone tried to translate and to understand the message of their preferred refrains. For instance, a foreign learner who listened to Queen‟s song „Show must go on‟ should not encounter any problems when using the phrasal verb „go on‟, knowing that this expression is assimilated

with the idea of continuity. As a conclusion, nowadays is easier to work with idioms because they can be found even in some leisure activities, such as watching a movie, listening to your favourite music or navigate the Internet, simplifying and also accelerating the learning process of these structures. On the other hand, a foreign learner needs to realize the fact that idioms cannot be learnt only from multimedia activities, because neither videos, nor music provide a comprehensive analysis but just a simple presentation or translation of an idiom. As a result, the best method of learning idioms remains the same, books and dictionaries providing the most complete and accurate pieces of information.

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2.7 False Friends: Language interference or source of comic?

Almost every foreign learner has met a „false friend‟, phenomenon that is characterized by the interference between the native language and a second language. In fact, words or expressions that share the same spelling or pronunciation among different languages, can have a completely different meaning. For instance, the pronunciation of the

English word „chef‟ coincides with the pronunciation of the Romanian „șef‟, meaning „leader‟ or „boss‟. Furthermore, the spelling of this word also coincides with the Romanian „chef‟, meaning „party‟. These similarities represent a real trap for any learner because using a „false friend‟ can completely change the meaning of a message. Imagine that a Romanian person hires as a „chef‟ but instead of leading the company, he will prepare food

for the company, confusion caused only by a small but significant language error.

A great amount of „false friends‟ are actually generated by „real friends‟ or „true cognates‟, words that share the same form and the same meaning between various languages. For example, Romanian word „librărie‟ is a true friend of the Spanish „librería‟ and the French „librairie‟ because it shares the same meaning, describing a bookshop. On

the other hand the English word „library‟ is a false friend for all these languages because it

has a different meaning, showing another institution, the place where you can read or borrow books and not an actual bookstore. This phenomenon occurs because all of Latin languages share a great number of words, expressions and even grammatical structures.

Consequently, for a French, Spanish, Romanian, Italian or any other Latin language speaker, it is very difficult to decide whether a word that has the same spelling or pronunciation is a false friend or a real friend. However, this phenomenon affects all the languages, not only the ones that have Latin roots. The Romanian word „ananas‟ is a real friend of almost all the world‟s languages: German „ananas‟, Russian ананас (ananas), Finish (ananas), Greek ανανάς (ananas), Arabic سا نا نأ (ananas), but an unknown word for the English speakers, because they use the term „pineapple‟. As a result, a foreign learner, especially an unexperienced one, will be confused by the name of this fruit and use the

word „ananas‟ even in English.

However, this cannot be considered a false friend, but just a language confusion

caused by the wrong usage of a real friend in an „unfriendly‟ language. But now let‟s focus

more on the presence and frequency of these language interferences in everyday usage, by pointing out which are the most commonly used „false friends‟, according to their country:

2.7 False Friends: Language interference or source of comic? Almost every foreign learner has met a

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English word

Romanian false friend

Romanian meaning

Ban

Ban

Coin

Far

Far

Headlight

Magazine

Magazine

Shops

Camera

Cameră

Room

Chef

Chef/șef

Party/leader

Crime

Crime

Murders

Cutie

Cutie

Box

Sensible

Sensibil

Sensitive

Fabric

Fabrică

Factory

Shoulder

Șold

Hip

 
English word Romanian false friend Romanian meaning Ban Ban Coin Far Far Headlight Magazine Magazine Shops

English word

French false friend

French meaning

Chance

Chance

Luck

Journey

Journée

Day

Coin

Coin

Corner

Car

Car

Coach

Chair

Chair

Flesh

Advertisement

Avertissement

Warning

Process

Procès

Trial

Quit

Quitter

To leave

Tissue

Tissu

Fabric

Cave

Cave

Cellar

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English word German false friend German meaning Brief Brief Letter Concrete Konkret Specific Eagle Igel Hedgehog

English word

German false friend

German meaning

Brief

Brief

Letter

Concrete

Konkret

Specific

Eagle

Igel

Hedgehog

Failure

Fehler

Mistake

Fast

Fast

Almost

List

List

Trick

Pregnant

Prägnant

Concise

Stool

Stuhl

Chair

Spices

Speisen

Dishes

Rat

Rat

Advice

 
English word German false friend German meaning Brief Brief Letter Concrete Konkret Specific Eagle Igel Hedgehog

English word

Spanish false friend

Spanish meaning

Direction

Dirección

Address

Particular

Particular

Private

Idiom

Idioma

Language

Rare

Raro

Strange

Rope

Ropa

Clothes

Once

Once

Eleven

Code

Codo

Elbow

Embarrassed

Embarazada

Pregnant

Parents

Parientes

Relatives

Gang

Ganga

Bargain

An English learner can be also confused by the presence of partial false friends,

words that have multiple meanings. For instance the Spanish word „blanco‟ means white, but in some cases can be translated as „blank‟. In addition, a foreign learner needs to know

that a false friend can also appear in countries that speak the same language. For instance,

in the South African English, the word „robots‟ may refer to the „traffic lights‟, while in the

Australian English the word „stack‟ means a „car accident‟ and not „a pile of things arranged one on top of another‟ (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary).

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As we have seen, a false friend can completely change a meaning of a sentence, being a frenquent and common mistake for any foreign learner. On the other side, these language interferences can also represent a source of humour and embaressment. For instance, there is a major difference between someone who is „embarazada‟ or just

embaressed. Again, someone who is accused of „crime‟ is not a murderer, like a Romanian

learner may think. However, this phenomenon represents a problem even for the advanced

users, the best example in this case being a Romanian spokesman who, in a official

meeting, translated the expression „shoulder by shoulder‟ – „șold la șold‟ meaning „hip to hip‟, affected probably by the similar pronunciation between these two distinct terms.

As a conclusion, a foreigner learner needs to realize the importance of a „false friend‟ and to try to avoid it as much is possible because this interference can affect the meaning of a message or can just embarass the person who use them.

You have just committed a crime!
You have just
committed a
crime!
But I haven’t killed anyone…
But I haven’t
killed
anyone…

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CHAPTER III CASE STUDY

  • 3.1 Introduction

The main purpose of this chapter is to test the learners‟ ability in using these structures and to show the issues that they can encounter. In order to do this, I elaborated a series of multiple choice tests, which can display the learners‟ actual level of knowledge. Moreover, I will try to answer the question “Which are the most problematic structures:

collocations, idioms or false friends?” by analysing and comparing the answers. After doing this, I will go further and analyse the subtypes of these structures, pointing out the most common language errors and giving instructions in order to prevent these interferences.

  • 3.2 Testing Methodology

In order to achieve my goal, I created two surveys, the first one being created especially for the Romanian students and the second one for other nations and professions. I need to mention that the first survey contains more questions than the second one, being designed exclusively for the linguistics students, containing eight more questions. Moreover, the first survey contains additional questions about false friends, topic that cannot be discussed very easily with a group of various nationalities. The first survey is actually a multiple-choice test, formed of fourteen questions. Each question has four answers, but only one of them is considered to be correct. This survey was applied on twenty subjects, with ages between 22 to 24 years old, all students of the Faculty of Letters, Romanian and English Section. The second survey is formed only of six questions. Each question has also four possible answers, but only one is correct. Is to be noted that these questions can also be found in the first survey, but differently organised. The survey was applied on fifteen subjects, with ages between 18 to 40 years old, people of different nationalities: Arabs, Filipino, Indian, French, Greek and Italian. Most of them work in the public services especially in tourism, others are part of the student exchange program. This study was realised after six months of research, starting from December 22 nd 2013 to June 16 th 2014, travelling in various locations: United Arab Emirates, Greece and France, and directly asking the subjects about the study of collocations and idioms. Fourteen of them told me that they had never heard about this terms, and only one of them was guessing the actual function of this structure. By analysing the results I observed that the study of collocations

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and idioms is still an unknown subject for a large amount of population (over 90%). A better percentage can be found at the Romanian students, where, from twenty subjects, twelve can recognize a collocation or an idiom, only eight of them (40%) encountered problems when hearing about these structures. Now I will present the first survey, exclusively designed for the Romanian students:

ENGLISH COLLOCATIONS, IDIOMS AND FALSE FRIENDS SURVEY NO.1

Choose the correct answer:

1)

I have just bought a ……………

..

Computer.

  • a) Strong

  • b) Good

  • c) Powerful

  • d) Smart

2)

She has the advantage……… speaking two foreign languages.

  • e) In

  • f) On

  • g) Of

  • h) For

3)

The girl doesn‟t find a ……………… effective method to lose weight.

  • a) Very

  • b) Highly

  • c) Greatly

  • d) Notably

4)

Martin usually goes to school ……. bus but today he is going ……. foot.

  • a) With/On

  • b) By/By

  • c) With/By

  • d) By/On

5)

In order to pass your exams you need to keep…… learning:

  • a) It

  • b) On

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  • c) In

  • d) Out

6)

George is surprisingly nice and friendly. He is “as nice as a…… “:

  • a) Lord

  • b) Dog

  • c) King

  • d) Pie

7)

Jane lives in “The Big Apple” means:

  • a) She lives in a house that looks like an apple

  • b) She lives in New York

  • c) She lives with her parents

  • d) She lives in the country‟s capital city

8) “Sophia‟s mother doesn‟t cut the mustard with her new barbecue recipe”

means:

  • a) Sophia‟s mother forgot about the mustard

  • b) Sophia‟s mother didn‟t have enough mustard, so she cut the mustard and shared it equally

  • c) Sophia‟s mother failed with her new barbecue recipe

  • d) The barbecue is still pretty good: with or without mustard

9)

“The little boy needs to spend a penny” means:

  • a) He needs to buy something that costs exactly 1 penny

  • b) He needs to go to the toilet

  • c) He needs to be more careful when using coins

  • d) He thinks that 1 penny is not enough

10) “The last time I talked with you, you were a million miles away” means:

  • a) You were very far from my location

  • b) You were not paying attention to me

  • c) You were in an exotic place

  • d) You didn‟t have enough mobile phone signal

11) “John works in the Army Intelligence, so he must have heard of X-Factor”

means:

  • a) John has enough free-time to watch every single X-Factor show

  • b) John must have some hidden talent

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  • c) John knows about the dangers of working in the Army

  • d) Being in the Army, John is always up-to-date with the latest news

12) “She seems to be a sensible person” means:

  • a) Ea pare să fie o persoană sufletistă

  • b) Ea pare să fie o persoană sensibilă

  • c) Ea pare să fie o persoană rațională

  • d) Ea pare să fie o persoană stingheră

13) “This is a high-quality fabric” means:

  • a) Aceasta este o fabrică de înaltă calitate

  • b) Această fabrică produce bunuri de calitate superioară

  • c) Aceasta este o fabrică de ultimă generație

  • d) Aceasta este o țesătură de calitate superioară

14) “The man has committed a crime” means :

  • a) Bărbatul a comis o infracțiune

  • b) Bărbatul a comis o crimă

  • c) Bărbatul este acuzat de omor

  • d) Bărbatul este acuzat de comiterea mai multor crime

3.3 In-depth analysis

As I have mentioned, this survey is formed of fourteen questions, but now let‟s analyze each question and discover correct answer and the possible difficulties:

1) The first question contains a lexical collocation formed of an adjective + noun.

Here, the correct answer is “Powerful” because a computer always collocates with this

adjective. Is to be mentioned that a computer can also collocate with the adjective “Good” but the preferred answer remains “Powerful” because it has a greater frequency rate.

2) The second question contains a grammatical collocation formed of a noun + preposition. The correct answer is “Of”. 3) The third question contains another lexical collocation formed of an adverb + an adjective. The correct answer is “Highly” 4) The fourth question is a grammatical collocation formed of a preposition + a noun. The correct answer is d) By/On. This type of collocation represents a major

39

problem for any English learner because the native prepositions can interfere with the English ones. 5) Question number five contains a very frequent type of idiom: a phrasal verb. In order to show the continuity of an action, the particle should be On, so the correct answer is b) On. 6) Question number six contains a type of opaque idiom, a frozen simile. Here, the

meaning of the message is hidden, so I expect a low rate of success. The correct answer is

“d) Pie”. 7) The seventh question contains an opaque idiom. The main particularity of this idiom is the fact that it is a country-specific (American) idiom. The correct answer is “New York”.

8) This question holds an opaque and a topic-specific (Cooking) idiom. The correct answer is “c) Sophia‟s mother failed with her new barbecue recipe”. 9) The ninth question contains an opaque and a country-specific (British) idiom. The correct answer is “b) He needs to go to the toilet”. 10) The question number ten is a transparent idiom, containing an expression frequently used under various forms by other nations. Here the learners might choose the base form and not the idiom. The correct answer is “b) You were not paying attention to me”.

11) The eleventh question is an opaque, country-specific (American) and topic-

specific (Army) idiom. The correct answer is c) John knows about the dangers of working in the Army”. 12) Question number twelve contains similar answers, but only one is a “true

friend”, “c) Ea pare să fie o persoană rațională”, the rest of them being phonetic and

graphic false friends. 13) Similar to question number twelve, the correct answer is “d) Aceasta este o țesătură de calitate superioară”. 14) The last question is also testing the learner‟s knowledge about false friends. The correct answer is “a) Bărbatul a comis o infracțiune”

The second survey contains only the questions 1, 3, 4, 8, 10 and 11, but the answers remain the same, not being affected by the different organization. A sample of this survey can be found on the next page.

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(This is a copy of a survey completed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by a Native

(This is a copy of a survey completed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by a Native Indian on December 25 th 2013)

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3.4 Results

First of all I would like to thank everyone who completed these surveys. I will start with the results obtained on the first survey, where from 20 Romanian students, only two (10%) managed to correctly resolve all the questions. In the following charts I will show the number (percentage) of correct answers for each question:

Survey 1 20 20 100.00% 20 18 90.00% 18 16 80.00% 16 14 14 70.00% 14
Survey 1
20
20
100.00%
20
18
90.00%
18
16
80.00%
16
14
14
70.00%
14
12
12
60.00%
12
10
10
50.00%
10
8
40.00%
8
30.00%
5
6
20.00%
3
4
2
10.00%
2
0.00%
0
Correct Answers

Analyzing the results, we can see that learners encountered difficulties when answering the questions 1, 4 and 11.

The first question points out the fact that they tend to associate the noun

“computer” with the adjective “smart”, 12 of them (60%) choosing “smart” as being the

correct answer. This phenomenon is normal because as I have mentioned before, nowadays

a foreign learner tend to associate any electronic device with the adjective “smart”, being

unable to distinguish between a smartphone, a smart TV or a laptop. The question number 4 contains two collocations formed of a preposition + a noun. Only 5 learners (25%) gave the correct answer, fact that can be easily explained due to the Latin nature of the Romanian Language: learners tend to use the Romanian prepositions when using the English Language.

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The last “problematic structure” is represented by question number 11, where only 2 (10%) learners gave or guessed the correct answer. This question contains an opaque idiom which made the learners to give wrong answers, probably influenced by the show “X-Factor”. Is to be observed that most of the Romanian learners (63,3%) managed to correctly

answer the “false friends” questions. Again, they have all scored a 100% percent when answering the question about phrasal verbs and the question about the “Big apple” idiom. As a conclusion, the most problematic structures are the “futuristic collocations”,

the collocations formed of a preposition + a noun and the topic-specific idioms. Now, I will present the results obtained on the second survey, where from 15 subjects only 4 (26,6%) managed to correctly answer all the questions. As an observation, this second test contains only 6 questions, so a test success rate comparison between this survey and the first one cannot be realized. However, I will still analyze the questions present in both surveys, making a side-by-side comparison chart.

Survey 2 15 12 9 6 3 0
Survey 2
15
12
9
6
3
0
100.00% 90.00% 80.00% 11 70.00% 60.00% 7 7 50.00% 40.00% 5 4 4 30.00% 20.00% 10.00%
100.00%
90.00%
80.00%
11
70.00%
60.00%
7
7
50.00%
40.00%
5
4
4
30.00%
20.00%
10.00%
0.00%
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Correct Answers
Survey 2
Survey 1

In order to the two need to that the numbers will changed:

In order to the two need to that the numbers will changed: Question 1 Question 1

Question 1

Question 1

Question 2

Question 3

In order to the two need to that the numbers will changed: Question 1 Question 1

Question 3

Question 4

Question 4

Question 8

In order to the two need to that the numbers will changed: Question 1 Question 1

Question 5

Question 10

Question 6

Question 11

compare

surveys, I

mention

question

be

The Results of the Comparison

60% 0% 10% 20% 60% 30% 50% 70% 80% 90% 40% 100% 10% 33.30% Question 6
60%
0%
10%
20%
60%
30%
50%
70%
80%
90%
40%
100%
10%
33.30%
Question 6
Question 1
73.30%
Question 5
50%
46.60%
Question 4
25%
26.60%
Question 3
40%
46.60%
Question 2
15%
26.60%
  • The percentage of correct answers (Survey 2)

  • The percentage of correct answers (Survey 1)

It can be observed that the correct answers of the second survey has an average increase of only 10,6% over the first one. The biggest difference can be found on the last question where the percentage increase is over 23%. This fact cannot be explained, because idioms have no connections with other languages, so I will pretend that it was just a stroke of luck. Again, using the right collocation on the first question can only have one

45

explanation: most of the subjects were men, so they might know technical terms such as: a powerful computer or a powerful processing unit. What is most interesting about collocations is the question number 3, where I cannot see a significant difference between the Romanian, French, Italian learners and other non-Latin populations when using prepositions, the correct answers coming from two French, one Indian and one Arab. Is to be mentioned that these results are purely informative and they cannot be taken for granted.

CONCLUSION

The aim of the present thesis was to present and to analyze the usage of

collocations, idioms and false friends, structures that are “unknown” for a large amount of

population. By reading this thesis, a foreign English learner will develop and upgrade his/her language skills, learning about structures that have a vital part in both written and spoken language. Moreover, this thesis can be used in order to find the most updated pieces of information available in this moment: books and dictionary definitions, comprehensive classifications, theories about the future perspectives, and also a complete

analysis of these structures‟ real-world impact. A foreign learner will find answers to questions like: “What is a collocation, an idiom, or a false friend?”, “How do we learn an idiom?”, “Have you ever heard a collocation, an idiom or a false friend when watching TV?”, “Which are the most problematic idioms, collocations or false friends?, “Which is the difference between a

metaphor, a proverb or an idiom?”, “Can a false friend be considered a source of humor?”

and many others. In addition, this thesis contains a complex case study which was realized in various countries, giving the reader a wide perspective upon the usage of these structures between different countries and continents. The innovative aspect of this thesis is given by the integration of these structures in the 21 st century, analyzing new types of words like smartphone or smart watch and comparing their usage and frequency rate with the principle of an Internet Search-Engine. An important aspect is also the fact that the present thesis contains multilingual pieces of information, analyzing collocations, idioms and false friends in more than five languages, creating a useful, a comprehensive and a valuable work.

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As a conclusion, any English learner needs to understand the importance of collocations, idioms and false friends, structures that are vital in both written and spoken language because they can reflect your actual English level.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

  • 1. Adam Makkai, Idiom structure in English, Mouton, 1972;

  • 2. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary Third Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2008;

  • 3. Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguisics, Philosophical Library, 1959;

  • 4. Helen Rowland, Reflections of a Bachelor Girl, Dodge Publishing Company, 1909;

  • 5. John Sinclair, Corpus, Concordance, Collocation, Oxford University Press, 1991;

  • 6. Jürg Strässler, Idoms in English A pragmatic analysis, Gunter Narr Verlag T bingen 1982;

  • 7. Michael McCarthy, Felicity O'Dell, English Phrasal Verbs In Use, Cambridge University Press, 2004;

  • 8. Morton Benson, Evelyn Benson, Robert Ilson, The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English: Your guide to collocations and grammar John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010;

  • 9. Nadja Nesselhauf, Collocations in a Learner Corpus, John Benjamins Publishing

Company 2005; 10. Pedro José Chamizo Domínguez, Semantics and Pragmatics of False Friends, Routlege, 2008; 11. Rubén Chacón-Beltrán, Towards a typological classification of false friends (Spanish-English), Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada, 2006; 12. Sam Glucksberg, Understanding Figurative Language From Metaphors to Idioms, Oxford University Press 2001; 13. Stephen D Krashen, Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition, Pergamon Press Inc., 1982; 14. The Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 1989;

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15.

William J. Sullivan, article „Idiomaticity as a language universal‟;

  • 16. Wolfgang Mieder, Proverbs: A handbook Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004;

Internet Sources

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