Since I was born in the United States which is a predominantly English speaking country, at least it was when I was in elementary school, I have taken the English language for granted. I never truly realized how difficult of a language it was to not only speak but to understand. While the structure is not that difficult and the fact that it is an alpha-numeric language as opposed to pictographic language like Chinese or Japanese it is simpler to learn. The problem arises from the many meanings our words have depending on how they are grammatically used. We also have many words that mean the same thing, and if that were not bad enough we use idiomatic expressions all too frequently to express ourselves. Since I have had my entire life to learn the language and the expressions used in our culture I did not give them a second thought. I did not give them much thought because most of the people that I have a regular communication with are familiar with the same phrases as I am, so we just happily prattle right along.
The problem arose when I started dating a young lady from Thailand. Of course English was not her primary language. While she did pretty well with understanding the written language she seemed to do better understanding the spoken language. Her main problem was in expressing herself. She also had problems with the subtle nuances that exist in our language. Since she still lived in Thailand, we communicated in private cat rooms. Her command of the language was basic at best thusly she some times came across as kind of cold and distant. However, when we talked on skype she was anything but cold and distance. Once I got used to these issues she was having in expressing herself, I overlooked the rather abrupt tone of her written communication. I am sure if I were trying to communicated in her language, I would sound very stilted. This did not mean that she care for me, it had to do with the language barrier that existed between us. When I finally was able to visit her in Thailand, her true self came out. She was a truly warm and generous person.
Just maybe this is why our governments have so many problems dealing with each other. Maybe it is our language and culture that is getting in the way?
One particular problem that she had was in understanding me when I used idiomatic expressions. Idioms represent a serious challenge in understanding the language because their meaning cannot be retrieved from the words, thus understanding, idioms is crucial for effective communication. I never really gave it a thought on how much I and we in the US rely on them in our everyday communications. This fact became all too apparent when I started communicating with her. I always joked that I would write a small pamphlet for her explaining the meanings our common expressions to facilitate our conversations. However we eventually broke it off before I ever acted on that promise. It now has been over eight years since we had our last conversation. I have since written four books, so the idea of writing a book on idiomatic expressions poses few obstacles for me. Bearing this in mind, I decided that it was high time that I finally kept my promise. I have since moved an and married a lovely lady, so I am not writing this book for my ex, I am writing it for all those people who are struggling with learning our language.
I am going to start by discussing and analyzing the English language, then I will go on to discuss the use of idiomatic expressions. I will then wrap up the book by covering these expressions in the three major English speaking countries. Even though we share the same basic language, our distinct use of idiomatic expressions make it quite difficult to understand each other.
When I worked out the direction that this book was going to take, I decided to include a discussion on the English language, its origins, and structure. In order to do so I am relying quite heavily on references for this discussion, because frankly I am out of my element here. So I hope you will bear with me. The first several chapters are going to be drawn heavily from reference sources, much more then in my previous books, where only certain areas were referenced. While it is true that all this information can be gleaned from the internet, in order to attain all of this information you would have to spend quite a bit of time researching to garner it. The purpose of this book is to digest all that information and present it in a cohesive manner.