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For non-native English speakers, idioms are “a tough nut to crack!”

A nut cracking with the text "Idioms are a tough nut to crack!"

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There are over 25,000 idioms in American English. You might think I’m pulling your leg[kidding], but it’s true. No wonder English is so difficult for non-native speakers to understand.

But let’s cut to the chase [get to the point].

What are idioms?

Idioms are phrases or expressions that have meanings other than the literal definitions of their component words. (For example, “on the ball” means alerteffective, or skillful—not literally to be located on a ball.) All languages have idioms.

For native speakers of a language, idiom use is second nature [a habit practiced so long it seems innate]. For non-native speakers, however, comprehension and use of idioms can be a tough nut to crack [something very complicated to understand or do].

Let’s get down to business [begin seriously doing what needs to be done]

In business, idioms are used around the clock [all the time]. Idioms are part of the business culture and are used in negotiation and communication with managers, colleagues, clients, and customers.

Therefore, comprehension of idioms is necessary to follow conversation in the workplace and stay ahead of the pack [make more progress than your competition].

Get the ball rolling [begin something in order to start making progress]

A few simple steps can put you on the fast track [experience rapid success or advancement] to understanding and competently using idioms:

  • Listen to the conversations of native speakers talking to each other; they know the ropes [are experienced and know how the system works].
    What idioms are they using? What is the context? Keep a log and put the most frequently used idioms at the top of your list to learn [make them a priority].
  • Read newspaper headlines and articles. The number of idioms used will knock your socks off [amaze].
    Highlight the expressions and note the context used. Add them to your log to stay on the right track [proceed satisfactorily].
  • Learn the idioms one by one.
    Practice and use each one, first with friends to be sure you hit the nail on the head[do exactly the right thing]. Then start to use them in the business setting.

Using idioms correctly indicates exceptional language competence and sophistication that will blow everyone away [cause great pleasure or surprise].

Speaking and language skills require attention and awareness to be developed and maintained. Our goal is to help you achieve your personal best, so grab the bull by the horns[confront something head on] and get started. The ball is in your court [it is up to you to take the next step]!

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