|Title||Coals to Newcastle or glittering gold? Which idioms need to be included in an English learner’s dictionary in Australia?|
|Abstract||English idioms and figurative expressions are used by native English speakers of all ages and from many different English speaking countries. The non-literal nature of idioms can pose a problem for non-native speakers, however, who wonder why taking coals to Newcastle should be a significant action, or where the back of Bourke might possibly be. Many non-native speakers of English in Australia are university-age students, aged between 16 and 22, whose first point of departure in finding the meaning of unfamiliar expressions is likely to be a monolingual English learner’s dictionary (MELD). Since the MELDs available in Australia are mainly of British origin, learners of English may therefore not find in them the Australian expressions that are used in general conversation and in the media. Moreover, Australian native speakers of English who belong to different generations may not know or use the same idioms. Students who do learn the meaning of an idiom need to know with whom it is appropriate to use such an expression, and this information is often not available in a MELD.
This paper addresses five idioms and expressions taken from a larger study of 84 idioms in order to examine which of these expressions are known and used by different age groups in Australia and the UK. Native English speakers in Australia and the UK completed 2085 surveys indicating where they had first encountered the 84 idioms and where they would use them. The findings indicate that not all expressions given in the British MELDs are known and used by native speakers in the 16-22 age range in either the UK or Australia, and that Australians use idioms which are often not included in the British MELDs. It is therefore suggested that MELDs used in Australia include more Australian material, perhaps online or via a CD-ROM, and that a more appropriate labelling system be introduced to indicate age as a factor in usage.
|Session||Phraseology and Collocation|