"Only the receptive use of metaphors and idioms should be ...

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QuestionQuestion

"Only the receptive use of metaphors and idioms should be taught in the foreign language classroom." Discuss possible reasons for such advice, based on the relevant literature, and justify your own opinion. Illustrate your answer with extracts from published TESOL reference and/or teaching materials used with learners at levels and in teaching contexts you are familiar with.

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Introduction

Metaphors and idioms are considered a fundamental mechanism of understanding language. This understanding has evolved since the days these linguistic devices were considered for merely stylistic applications. They now form a critical aspect of language acquisition studies in second language (L2) learning through theories such as Conceptual Metaphor Theory. This essay examines the importance of teaching the receptive use of metaphors and idioms at L2 level learning. Literature reviews have been examined, as well as personal examples of student-teacher interactions and my own experience as an L2 learner.

Metaphors and idioms are sewn into the fabric of everyday speech. The frequency of use was first asserted by Lakoff and Johnson in Metaphors We Live By, where the Conceptual Metaphor Theory was first instantiated. Here, the essence of the metaphor was described my Lakoff as a matter of understanding rather than simply linguistic expression; where one thing was understood with its relationship to another (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). A subjective, experiential perception of our world limited by our senses is what presents a need for conceptual metaphors. These are then represented in language. Such metaphors can be clustered together to form an underlying assumption in any given culture. An example would be comparing the mind to a machine (Perdawdy, 2018). Below are a number of metaphors (italicised) we use as common expressions to communicate this:

We are trying to grind out the solution.

My mind just isn’t operating today.

The wheels are turning now.

I’m a little rusty today.

We’re running out of steam.

Another example coined by Lakoff and Johnson is one of argument as war. With descriptions of how pervasive this metaphor is, they illustrate how this idea forms the very fabric of how a culture conducts their interactions around arguments. When an argument is seen as indefensible, when one can win or lose an argument, apply strategies and carry out a line of attack, this dictates the way one speaks during an argument. An example is given of a culture where argument is seen as a dance; participants would be performers, the interaction would be balanced and aesthetically pleasing. Thus the experience of the argument would be entirely different; where one culture would understand discourse as battle and the other as a dance (ibid). This illustrates the depth at which metaphors affect our everyday life and interactions, moulding and shaping the lives we live in a given culture and our resulting relationships and experiences. In this way, the scope of applying metaphors and idioms receptively becomes apparent.

What follows is a review of current literature advancing the Conceptual Metaphor Theory now dated forty years old. In a fast globalising world with internet and technology increasing the demand for L2 learning, there is far more research now than ever into the more efficient and streamlined acquisition of the English Language. Many more claims have been made on metaphor and idioms as being powerful tools in the acquisition of language in L2 learning environments when taught receptively.
Literature Review

Metaphor Awareness
A major principle of cognitive linguistics is that language is motivated; meaning there is a relationship between form and meaning and use. Thus language can be explained through links to experiences of body or concepts. The analysis of the relationship between form and meaning of input results in a deeper...

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