• In what ways are humans and the earth described as interconnected?
• How do you think the U.S. government and white settlers viewed the relationship
between humans and the earth?
• Can you think of examples in speeches given by people of dominant U.S. culture
that illustrate the values and world view at that time? Examples from speeches
given by individuals of other cultural groups?
Activity 8-4: Idiomatic expressions
This activity demonstrates the difficulty in explaining and translating idioms to people who do
not come from the same culture. Students will learn that idioms are culture-bound and that
knowing a language such as English does not ensure that one will understand all the idioms of
the English language. This activity can be carried out in several ways.
One approach is to have students generate their own list of idioms and explain their definitions.
In this case, divide the class into groups of four to six students and ask them to generate as many
U.S. idioms they can think of. This may be difficult at first because idioms are a natural,
unconscious part of conversation. It might be wise to give a few examples to get students started.
Each group should then try to explain each idiom as though they were explaining the idiom to
someone from another culture. Having international students in your classroom will enhance this
exercise, because many of them may not be familiar with all American idioms. Students will
discover that many idioms are difficult to explain since native speakers of any language know
the idioms of their culture intuitively through years of usage.
A second way to carry out this activity is to use the handout on the following page that lists
English idioms from three societies: the U.S., Great Britain, and the Bahamas. Ask students to
first explain what the U.S. idioms mean. Again, international students may act as “judges” who
determine whether the explanation of an idiom is adequately clear. Then ask students to try to
define the idioms of Great Britain and the Bahamas. Which ones do they know? Which can they
accurately guess the meanings of? Which do they not understand at all? Give them the
definitions to the British and Bahamian idioms and discuss possible reasons why these idioms
were constructed the way they were.
Possible discussion questions following the exercise:
• Why is it difficult to explain idioms from our own culture?
• How do you think idioms are formed?
• Why do they cause a great deal of trouble for non-native speakers?
• Can you think of any idioms from the U.S. that you did not understand in the past
but now do? Could these idioms have been regionally based?
• How did you come to understand each of these idioms? Did you ask for an
explanation, or was the meaning clear because of the context in which the idiom