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1Gumilyov Eurasian National University APPLYING A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO TEACHING FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE IN TEFL CLASSESSaltanat MeiramovaGumilyov Eurasian National UniversityIATEFL 2012
2The Figurative Language Theory Psychological (Gibbs & O’Brien 1990; Gibbs 1997; Nayak & Gibbs 1990)Cognitive (Lakoff 1980)Linguistic (Boers 1999, 2004; Skovfaki 2008)Trim (2007)Inesta and Pamies (2002)Sweetser (1990)
3What is figurative or metaphorical language? Expressions – to carry coals to Newcastle, to burn one’s boats, to trickle a waterWords: to blossom, healthy, burning; headache, recipe, rootsProverbs: Birds of a Feather, Every cloud has a silver lining; No pain no gainFigurative language is represented by many figures of speech to achieve a special effect or meaning.Figurative or metaphorical language takes many forms. They are: expressions such as to be at a crossroads or to shake like a leaf. There are many words which can have both literal and metaphorical meanings: verbs such as to blossom, to trickle and to wound; adjectives such as healthy, half-baked and burning; nouns such as headache, recipe and roots. There are proverbs which by their very nature can only be understood metaphorically, e.g. Birds of a feather flock together, there is no smoke without fire. While these are now sometimes considered rather clichéd, they still form part of the natural repertoire of most native speakers of English.All these forms of figurative or metaphorical language have one thing in common. In classical rhetoric, the term metaphor comes from Greek meta expressing ‘change’, and pherein meaning ‘to carry’. Metaphors thus involve a ‘carrying across’ of meaning from one object to another. An identification is made between two apparently dissimilar things, so that some of the characteristics of the one are ‘carried over’ to the other. For example, if in the dictionary a ‘trickle of water’ means a very small quantity of water that flows slowly, then a ‘trickle of visitors’ means a small number of people who arrive gradually or in small groups. If a television sitcom in English is called Birds of a Feather, viewers implicitly understand that this alludes to the proverb, and know that the programme features people who are in some way similar to each other, rather than different species of birds.
4Figurative Language Imagery Personification Metaphors Alliteration SimilesAlliterationFigurative LanguageImageryHyperboleIdiomsOnomatopoeia
5Comparative analysis of Idioms classification The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms (1993)Gibbs (1994)Fernando & Flavell (1981), Glaser (1988)Weinreich (1972), Gläser (1988)
6FindingsOxford dictionary (1993) vs Fernando & Flavell (1981), Glaser (1988) - to burn one’s boatsCross-cultural issues: Jack of all trades, open the gateThe Oxford Dictionary (1993) vs Weinreich (1972), Gläser (1988) - cold war, black marketblow one’s trumpet and wet blanketpushing up daisies and apple of one’s eye
7Comparative analysis of colour idioms in English, French, Russian and Kazakh The English ‘to feel blue’ means ‘be depressed’ while in Russian “голубой” (literally: light blue) means to be homosexual.In Kazakh culture blue associates with the sky and symbolizes power, purity and masculineIn French culture blue represents freedom. It exists in the French flag today originated around the time of the Revolution.‘blue-blooded’ refers to ‘to be from noble or aristocratic descent’ in French ‘avoir du sang bleu’,in Russian быть голубой крови and in Kazakh it turns ‘white’ (ақ сүіек).
8Comparative analysis of colour idioms in English, French, Russian and Kazakh English idiom black list -‘list of suspects’ has formally and semantically equivalent structures both in French, Russian and Kazakh: liste noire, черный список, қара тізім.English ‘a black day’ (for someone/something) - an unhappy day when something bad or sad happens/ un jour noire/черный день/ басына қара бұлт төну - this meaning is shared in all four languages.English ‘black and blue’ - having bruises on the body after an accident, fight etc. Also in French ‘noire et bleu’, ‘сплошь в синяках’ in Russian and ‘көк ала қойдай’ turns in Kazakh (literary: as a parti-coloured sheep)The semi-opaque English idiom black list which means ‘list of suspects’ has formally and semantically equivalent structures both in French, Russian and Kazakh: черный список,қара тізім.
9Comparative analysis of colour idioms in English, French, Russian and Kazakh ‘red light’ refers to sell sex and pornography in many countries, e.g. in Russian «улица красных фонарей» (literary: the street of red lamps) but not in Kazakh.‘the red carpet’ shares the meaning of ‘welcoming or attention for an important visitor’ in all 4 languages.Red (in politics) means in French ‘les rouges’’, in Russian ‘красные’ and in Kazakh ‘қызылдар’ associated with ‘the communists’ and ‘revolution’Discussion
10Comparative analysis of colour idioms in English, French, Russian and Kazakh ‘a white night’ - J'ai passe une nuit blanche means ‘to have a sleepless night’ in French, Russian, but not in English and Kazakh.English ‘white collar worker’s meaning ‘a non-manual worker’ is equivalent to French ‘un travailleur de cols blanc’, Russian ‘белый воротничок or белоручка’, and Kazakh ‘ақ жағалылар’. And in Russian and Kazakh it has a slightly negative meaning.English ‘a white lie’ is a lie which does no harm and is more polite than the truth in French ‘un mensonge blanc’, in Russian ‘ложь во спасение’ or ‘безвинная ложь’ and in Kazakh ‘бейкүнә өтірік’.Discussion
11Comparative analysis of colour idioms in English, French, Russian and Kazakh The Greens associates with Greenpeace, youth and environmentalists in all 4 languages.‘green with envy’ has negative meaning ‘to be extremely envious of someone or something’ in Russian ‘позеленеть от гнева, злости and in French with ‘une colère bleue’ and in Kazakh ‘ашудан көгеру’ turns blue.English ‘as green as grass’ means in French ‘vert comme herbe’ (be inexperienced), in Russian ‘быть молодым, неопытным новичком’ (new to something) and in Kazakh ‘ашық ауыз’ (naive).‘green’ also in Russian refers to dollars (зеленые).
12How to teach figurative language Thornbury (2002)Wright (1999)Bartlett (1932) - ‘Effort aftermeaning’
13Why teach figurative language? to increase knowledge of vocabularyto organise and memorise new wordsto integrate skills workto improve language awareness and useIt is useful for learners of English to increase their knowledge of figurative language for many reasons. Firstly, introducing figurative language in the classroom can be an effective way of expanding students vocabulary. Once students learn literal meaning of particular words, their vocabulary can be greatly extended if they are then able to use these words figuratively (e.g. words such as to bloom or to blossom which have both literal and metaphorical meanings). This strategy for increasing vocabulary can be particularly motivating for students who seem to have reached a plateau in their learning, or who are on exam-oriented courses, such as First Certificate in English and Certificate of Proficiency in English where high levels of lexical knowledge are required.Secondly, figurative language provides a handy and memorable way of organising new vocabulary to be learned. Most teachers and students are familiar with the notion of a lexical set, where vocabulary is grouped according to topic area. But particular lexical areas can also be extended to create ‘metaphorical sets’. Examples of these might include weather vocabulary to describe behaviour and relationships, or taste vocabulary to describe people’s character and behaviour. By presenting vocabulary as part of these ‘metaphorical sets’ teachers can help students to organise and remember new words. Focusing on figurative language in the classroom provides a way to exposing students to useful idioms (e.g. to lend a hand) and common collocations (e.g. a hail of bullets – град пуль). By presenting idioms and collocations coherently as examples of figurative language which fit into metaphorical sets, teachers can make learning them both more meaningful and more memorable for students.Finally, activities incorporating figurative language can provide a useful springboard for integrated skills work, i.e. stimulating reading, speaking and writing skills. Teachers should create activities which are designed to improve the students’ overall language awareness and to encourage them to use English more confidently and imaginatively.
14Identifying literary and non-literal meaning Questioning and answering practice to help the idioms meanings guessing or drawing the word association for a colour.When a very important person arrives in your country what colour of carpet is rolling out for then to walk on?What colour makes you to remember that day?In your language what colour do you use to describe bruises?Do you have idioms in your language which have the same meaning as some of these?a storm in a teacup; to have your heart in your mouth; to drink like a fish; to kill two birds with one stone
15Communicating the values of culture Explain to students that metaphors and similes often express particular values in different cultures even if these are not very obvious.Show the students how to use the introduction to set out what the rest of the text would be about.Point out to students that metaphors and similes can range from the traditional (in dictionaries) to the fresh and newly invented. E.g. green for currency.Explain that colour associations can vary greatly and awareness of this would help students to avoid cultural stereotyping around colour. E.g. black in a black mood, black market, black humour.
16Developing awareness/ ‘Effort aftermeaning’ (Bartlett 1932) 1. What domain of experience do you think the following idiom comes from?a white elephant2. Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.The early bird catches the worm.Кто рано встает, тому бог дает.importance/violenceexpencive/uselessGames/sportsThe world belongs to those who get up early.
17Source:1. Albino elephants were so rare in Siam (modern Thailand) that they automatically became property of the king who would give them to subjects he disliked. Since it was forbidden to use it for work, the elephant would sometimes bankrupt the subject.So, it means – a large, useless and extremely expensive possession
18Identifying metaforical meaning; using English creatively What is the figurative meaning of the following idiom:‘to be in the red’Colour idiomsTo be angryTo be in debtTo embarrassA white nightA black dayOnce in a blue moon
20Similar & practically coincide EnglishFrenchRussianKazakhLive a cat –and-dog lifeVivre une vie de chat et de chienЖить как кошка с собакойИт-мысық болып өмір сүруBe in seventh heavenD'être au septième cielБыть на седьмом небеТөбесі кокке жетуTo play with fireJouer avec le feuИграть с огнёмOтпен ойнау
22Partly similar but comprehended EnglishFrenchRussianKazakhTo be on somebody’s handsSur les mains de quelqu'unБыть связанным по рукам и ногамЖіпсіз байлануTo promise wondersPromettre merveillesСулить златые горыАспандағы айды уәде етуTo be in one’s elementDoit être un élémentБыть в своей стихииӨзін-өзінше сезу
24Different and sometimes present difficulties EnglishFrenchRussianKazakhNeither down nor featherNi bas ni plumeНи пуха ни пера!Тисе терекке, тимесе бұтаққаA load off one’s mindOter un poids à quelqu’unКак гора с плеч свалиласьАрқасынан ауыр жүк түсу
25Teaching in contextI was feeling a bit down in the dumps because it was raining cats and dogs, so I went to see Bill. Bill drinks like a fish because his work drives him up the wall. He is an EFL teacher. But he would never leave you in the lurch. Today I found him like a cat on hot bricks because he was bored. We decided to kill two birds with one stone by going to the pub and the launderette. We had a bone to pick with the barman in any case because he had forgotten to reserve the dartboard for us the previous day. We decided that not to go to the pub in protest would be just cutting off our noses to spite our faces. We did not want to make a mountain out of a molehill either.
26ConsolidationChoose the colour which completes the idiom– black or white:HAF 399 ‘I used to be the _____ sheep of the family,’ he said. (17)F9W 728 In English, there is even a term for the surrender of truth to politeness: ‘a _____ lie’. (14) (BNC)Look back at the idioms of the lesson and add the missing colour:There’s too much _________ tape.I do it once in a _________ moon.It was a bolt out of the _________.
27Consolidation Figure out which technique is being used? AT He was as white as a sheet. (22)JXU 4344 It was like driving on black ice.(8)Answer: SimileQ.: How do you figure?A.: comparing using “as”, “like” (BNC)Write down any metaphors or similes you know in English and discuss them with your partner.Match the expressions with their definitions.Discuss whether the meaning of the expression is linked to the general associations for the colour, e.g. white lie, which suggests a lie that is ‘pure’ or ‘innocent’.
28ConsolidationIdiom Quizzes – Colors Choose an idiom to replace the expression in the brackets:The government finally gave the city (permission) to build the new airport.(a) the green light (c) once in a blue moon(b) a horse of a different color (d) red tapeI go to the swimming pool only (rarely) although I love to swim.(a) green around the gills (c) in the red(b) with flying colors (d) once in a blue moonOur company has been (losing money) for three years now.(a) rolling out the red carpet (c) in the red(b) yellow-bellied (d) green
29Summing up the procedure Phase one: awareness of the origin of the idiomobjective: to explore figurative associations for idioms and how they differ or similar cross-culturallyPhase two: identifying the meaning of the idiom objective: to present and practise expressions and collocations connected with idioms, cross-cultural problemsPhase three: consolidation
30ConclusionEncourage students to learn ‘language chunks‘ to remember them better and use them appropriatelyEncourage students to play creatively with languageTo promote cognitive analytic activityTo match idioms/metaphors with a jumbled list of definitionsThe existence of common patterns of idiomacity in English, French, Russian and Kazakh seems to be the result of a commonly shared human experience
31ReferencesSeidl, J., McMordie, W. (1988). English Idioms. 5th edition of English Idioms and How to Use Them. Oxford University Press.Lazar, G. (2003). Meanings and Metaphors. Activities to practise figurative language. Cambridge University Press.Lakoff, G. And Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. ChicagoKovecses, Z. And Szabo, P. (1996). Idioms: A view from cognitive semantics. In Applied Linguistics. Vol. 17/3.Lewis, Michael. (2000). Teaching Collocation. Further development in the Lexical Approach. Thomson, Heinle. p.132.The Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic EnglishSinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford Press.Fernando, C. (1996). Idioms and Idiomaticity. Oxford University PressTer–Minasova, S. (1996). Language, Linguistics and Life: A view from Russia, Moscow State University Association.Murphy M.L. (2010). Lexical meaning. Cambridge University Press.Nattinger J.R. and DeVarrico J.S. (1992). Lexical Phrases and Language Teaching. Oxford University Press.