Bring home the bacon, be on cloud nine, a piece of cake… When translated literally, these phrases sound weird in other languages, right? But, what about their meaning when we say them in English? These are the examples of idioms and if we translate them literally to other languages no one would be able to understand their real meaning.
Idiomatic expressions represent a set of words connected as a whole and as such offer a new meaning. However, it is the knowledge of such expressions that tells us how well a speaker speaks a language. What is hidden behind the idiomatic expressions that are a seemingly unrelated group of words? The answer lies in the cultural heritage and domesticated speech of most people from the particular area. Experts recommend that such expressions should definitely be nurtured because they represent the core of the language.
When we talk about idioms and their transfer to other languages, we will often come across the expressions that can be easily transferred to another language. The reasons for this can be numerous, starting from a common history, geographical area or simply similar habits of the speakers. For example, in French you can stumble upon a lot of expressions that are same as in some other languages. Some of them are: claire comme le jour (as clear as daylight), marcher sur des œufs (walking on eggshells), être sur la liste noir (to be on the black list), vieux renard (the old fox)… On the other hand, in every language there are expressions that are unique and can only be understood by the speakers of that language. In Montenegrin we will hear: bez dlake na jeziku (means to say what you mean no matter what), koštati kao svetog Petra kajgana (used to describe something extremely expensive), upala mu sjekira u med (used to describe someone who is very lucky), malo sjutra (used to describe something that is not going to happen)…
There are also expressions that have their equivalents in different languages. In Montenegrin, lije kao iz kabla would be an equivalent for English it’s raining cats and dogs. The equivalent for Montenegrin expression kad na vrbi rodi grožđe would be when pigs fly / when Hell freezes over. When we say to an English speaker not to mix apples and oranges he will not be surprised and he will easily understand what we want to say. In Montenegrin, people will understand if we use the phrase grandmothers and frogs, and in French it would be apples and pears. There are a lot of similar examples and they represent a real challenge for translators because they have to find a right way to transmit the message to another language and at the same time their solution should be creative and witty.
Idioms may make a learning process more complicated. When one is done with learning grammar and vocabulary, they should understand the idioms in order to say that they speak language properly. The best way to learn these expressions is communication on a daily basis and curiosity. By using idioms correctly, we give the impression that we have mastered the language we speak.