Research Key

Mastery of English Idioms by English language Major in the University of Buea

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International: $20
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Qualitative method
Analytical tool
Descriptive Statistics
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This study explores the mastery of English idiomatic expressions by English language majors at the University of Buea. As a descriptive study, it investigates the students’ knowledge of 10 idioms. A literature review was done related to the study. Many theorists and authors defined idioms differently and some were similar in their definitions, idioms were also categorized differently, the importance and how to teach idioms to students were also looking at.

The sample population were the English majors at the University of Buea. Random sampling was used to choose participants. The questionnaire was administered directly as a method of data collection. The data collected was later calculated in percentages. Some recommendations were made and finally, the suggestion was made for further studies.



Idioms have always attracted the attention of linguists, although they were not given a lot of recognition in the past. The new trend in English lexical studies, however, has thrown a completely different light on these multiword units with more or less unpredictable meanings. Being regarded as something inherently linked with a successful acquisition of a second language, idioms are of great importance in any language system.

Different languages have different idioms both in structure and meaning. Also, the repertoire of idioms will vary from one person to another depending on their social and intellectual backgrounds. Idioms can frequently be encountered in magazines, newspapers, movies and television stations.

Idioms come from the Greek word “idios” which means personal. Idiom originally meant peculiar or proper to people or country. These days, we use idioms for a specialized vocabulary or an expression that is not obvious.

Originally, idioms were the focus of only a small part of the research of a more general framework, model, or theory they now represent an important research theme. Like “to kick the bucket” means to die. Idioms are part of speech like metaphor, hyperbole and proverb.

Goffin and McMordia, (1976:6), state that idiomatic expressions are to be found even in daily speech of English rather than in elaborate, polished composition. In general, idioms can be categorized into phrasal verbs, prepositional verbs, and partial idioms. According to Simpson, (2004), idioms have their origin in metaphors which have become fixed phrases in the language. There are frequently referred to a cluster of words whose meaning can be hardly deduced from their constituents parts.

Simpson, (2004:93), states that idioms do not occur only in colloquial language, however, they appear informal style and poetry, for example, the Bible, the language of Shakespeare etc. most idioms belong to informal spoken English rather than written English, ( Longman Dictionary of idioms, 1979, viii). This view is underlined by Crystal and Davy (1969), who claimed that the majority of idioms mark informal or colloquial language as they are representative of colloquial idioms, such as” in a minute”, “the simple truth is” etc. And they are frequently part of conversational language.

Definition of key terms


Mastery refers to having great skill at or total dominance over something. If one is fluent in the English language he or she must have a better mastery of the English language. According to Miriam Webster online dictionary, mastery is the “knowledge and skill that allows one to do, use or understand some things very well”.


According to Gear. J and Gear R, (2002:83) idioms are a group of words together that have a different meaning from the individual words. Also, according to Miriam Webster online dictionary, an idiom is a form of language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar and pronoun citation.

For example “get out of hand”, means beyond control. “Cold fish means”, fish means a person who does not seem very friendly or does not show emotions. Idioms equally reflect national features, personify in a language and are prospered in customs and habits that characterize a society Ijellah, (2014). This means that a lot of cultural knowledge is personified in idioms, and we also communicate effectively through idioms as it reflects a nation’s culture.

English Majors:

These are students at the University of Buea, who study or take the English language as their main Degree Program. For the present study, English language majors at the University of Buea will be our main concern.

Statement of the Problem

  • English language majors have inadequate mastery of idiomatic expressions.
  • English language majors do not have adequate mastery of idiomatic expressions.

Objectives of the Study

The purpose of this study is to assess the mastery of English idioms by English

majors and relate it to their fluency and performance in the English language. The objectives are as follows:

  • To assess the mastery of English idioms by English majors in the University of Buea.
  • To propose some possible solutions that can help to enhance the teaching of idioms to students.
  • To establish the relationship between students” mastery of idioms and their performance in the English language.

Research Questions

  • Do English language majors have adequate mastery of idiomatic expressions?
  • What are the relationships between students’ mastery of idioms and their performance in the English Language?
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