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English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 1 Running head: English and Vietnamese idioms about animals Cultural Affection on English and Vietnamese idioms about animals: a contrastive analysis Pham Anh Tuan HCMC University of Pedagogy English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 2 Abstract: Idioms are heavily loaded with cultural information. Although they share some common grounds, Vietnamese idioms and English idioms differ greatly due to cultural differences. This paper investigates the affection of culture on Vietnamese and English idioms through examples. English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 3 Idioms are expressions that are not understandable from the literal meanings of individual components. Each language, English or Vietnamese has a long history with large quantities of idioms that are characterized by such features as conciseness and vividness. Because of the differences in many aspects such as geography, history, religion etc, both English and Vietnamese

idioms are closely connected with cultures, and they reveal special national characteristics and are full of rich cultural information. Language is a reflection of culture and culture shapes language. In exploration into the unknown world, idioms reflect the transformation in conceptualization of the universe and the relationship between human beings and the universe. Therefore, idioms as a form of a language reflect culture in a concentrated way. Speech or writing without them lacks meanings and is uninteresting, but overuse or improper use makes the language sound affected and unnatural. English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 4 English idiom In Cambridge International Dictionary of idioms, idiom is defined as a colorful and interesting aspect of English. They are used generally in all types of language, informal and formal, spoken and written. Idioms regularly have a stronger meaning than non-idiomatic phrases. For instance, “look daggers at someone” has more

highlighting than look angrily at someone, but they signify the similar thing. Idioms may also imply a particular attitude of the person using them, for example disapproval, humor, irritation or admiration. Words do not just come individually; they also come in expressions – in-group. Idioms are among the most common of these expressions (Wright, 2002). Idioms itself have grammar. Some idiomatic expressions are fixed and cannot be changed such as two head are better than one. However, in most cases, we can change the tense and the pronoun such as I am/She is/We are all at sixes and sevens. According to Wright, idiom is an expression with following features. Firstly, idiom is fixed and is recognized by native speakers. We cannot make up our own idioms. The second feature is that idiom uses language in a non-literal-metaphor-way Take these idioms as examples. Tin up to my eyes in work now At the meeting, I felt a bit out of my depth. I was over the moon when I heard she’d had twins.

It broke my mother’s heart to see her home burnt to the ground. If you are up to your eyes, you are very busy. When a person is out of her or his depth, they might be in the sea but they are more likely to be in a circumstance that they cannot comprehend for some reasons. If you are over the moon, you are English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 5 extremely joyful about something. If something breaks your heart, you are very gloomy about it. In these examples, it is clear that the idiom is a whole expression. This is the traditional view of idioms. Nevertheless, there is a lot more language, which is idiomatic. We are familiar with the idea of heavy rain causing a stream to overflow and flood the surrounding area; crowds are often described as water and the same verb flood is used. The literal meaning of a hot potato, it is not for eating; it means a controversial issue. Idioms are very important because they are commonly used in daily life. It is nearly I possible to speak,

read or listen to English without meeting idioms The next reason is the metaphorical use of a word is more common today than its literal meaning. However, it is important to know its literal meaning It creates a picture in our mind and this picture enables us to understand other meanings easier. The last reason why idioms are so important is that they are fun to learn and to use. If the language you want to learn is more colorful and interesting, there is more chance that we will remember it clearly. Our English will sound more natural English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 6 Vietnamese idioms According to Hung, in Vietnamese, idioms are frequently used fixed expression; grammatically, they do not have a complete sentence, which mean they only equal words or phrases. Idioms do not show any comments, experiences, ethnical lesson or critics, so they often have figurative function, not educational function. For example, in Vietnamese we say “mặt hoa da phấn”. This idiom

only bring us a picture of a beautiful and charming woman but not lesson about ethnics or critics. Most of idioms are formed from incomplete meaning words; they cannot stand alone but in a sentence. Vietnamese idioms are often used in proverbs, folk songs, or literature works. That makes idioms meaningful only when they are in sentences Take this as an example, “công dã tràng”, at least, it has to be in sentence: “đúng là công dã tràng” or “chuyện anh làm chỉ là công dã tràng”. Instead of expressing an idea literally, people tend to use idiom to make their speech more beautifully or funnier. For example, to express the idea of a person who sometimes works, sometime does not, we use this idiom “hắn ta đi làm bữa đực bữa cái”. Idioms use brief expressions based on stories, folk tales, or classic references, which happened a long time ago, now we encounter similar situation. Hearing those idioms, the listener knows exactly what the speaker

means. Many Vietnamese idioms are borrowed from Chinese idioms; however, Vietnamese cleverly transformed those meanings form Chinese idioms into our Vietnamese way of talking. For example, “huynh đệ thủ túc”, in Vietnamese, we have this equivalence “anh em như thể tay chân”. English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 7 In this paper, I want to talk about how cultural feature affects the illustration of animals used in English and Vietnamese idioms. To start with, culture is a complex system of knowledge, ethical principles, beliefs, arts, law and traditions, etc. In addition, language, as a part of culture, reflexes the wealthy and various cultural phenomena. Idioms preserve close relationships with peoples life and the culture where they are shaped and used. As Vietnam has a long history of cultivation and agriculture, a large number of idioms related to agriculture have been in use. Most of the elements used in Vietnamese idioms are focus on animals that the

farmers have to deal with in their daily life as we can see in the following examples: ăn ốc nói mò bắt cóc bỏ dĩa con sâu làm rầu nồi canh châu chấu đá xe cá chậu chim lồng cháy nhà mới ra mặt chuột cõng rắn cắn gà nhà chuột sa chĩnh gạo con giun xéo lắm cũng quằn đàn gẩy tai trâu giao trứng cho ác khỏe như trâu mộng lo bò trắng răng nước đổ đầu vịt English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 8 nuôi ong tay áo sẩy đàn tan nghé vắng chủ nhà, gà mọc đuôi tôm (or: vọc niêu tôm) (Tuyển Tập Thành Ngữ Tục Ngữ Ca Dao Việt Anh Thông Dụng) In the above idioms, farm animals like chicken, duck, fish, buffalo, cow.are often used when the farmers need an image to express their ideas about something. Take buffalo in the idiom “đàn gẩy tai trâu” as an example. According to Vietnamese conception, buffalo is one of the twelve zodiacs, and it represents something is

bulky, lumpish, but patient. Buffalo is considered a close buddy of the farmers, leaving an unfathomable spot in the mind of Vietnamese. Đàn gẩy tai trâu uses one characteristic of the buffalo -lumpish- to express the idea of a person who would not listen to anything or anyone. Differently, living on an island, the English are tend to sailing and traveling a lot, the English language flourish in idioms connected with navigation. all at sea any port in a storm half sea over in the same boat sink or swim take the wind out of somebodys sail weather eye to keep ones head above water to clear the decks to tide over (Oxford Dictionary of Idioms) English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 9 The second feature of the culture’s reflex on idioms is the distinction of customs is multi-sided, of which the most typical one is the attitude towards such animals as the dog, the cat, etc. Take the dog for example In Vietnam, the dog is of a lowly status Most of the Vietnamese idioms

concerning with dogs are used in an insulting sense, usually describing wicked persons, although the numbers of pet dogs have increased nowadays. chó treo mèo đậy chó chạy cùng rào chó chê mèo lắm lông chó cùng dứt dau chó chạy cùng rào (Tuyển Tập Thành Ngữ Tục Ngữ Ca Dao Việt Anh Thông Dụng) Nonetheless, in the eyes of the English, “Dog” is a man’s best friend in Western countries. Since the dog is a lovely pet, a faithful fellow Even though some other languages put forth passive influences on certain English idioms concerned with dogs, such as "a surly dog”, “in the doghouse” they always show sympathy and tender fondness to dogs rather than disgust and even hatred. In addition, a story said that a couple was quarrelling. One neighbor said, “Don’t bit the dog” It shows that people regard a dog to be a person “love me, love my dog” “help a lame dog over a stile”. a lucky dog a top dog die like a dog as sick as a

dog as faithful as a dog English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 10 every dog has his day. love me, love my dog. (Oxford Dictionary of Idioms) It is the outcome of different cultures forming different languages. The knowledge of the same animal is different in the minds. Therefore, the animals can mean different meanings. By contrast, the dragon, as a symbol of the Vietnamese since a long time ago, carries a positive and favorable meaning. Such idioms are often found in Vietnamese language, since the Vietnamese is proud of being descendants of the holy dragon, “con rồng cháu tiên” Symbolize wealth and goodness: đầu rồng,đuôi tôm rồng đến nhà tôm vẽ rồng nên giun Symbolize luxuriousness: thêu rồng,vẽ phượng chạm rồng,trổ phượng Symbolize fortune: mả táng hàm rồng như cá gặp nước,như rồng gặp mây rồng mây gặp hội Symbolize brilliancy: rồng bay,phượng múa ăn như rồng cuốn,uống như rồng leo

English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 11 (Nói Chuyện Về Tuổi Rồng) Nevertheless, in Western mythologies, in this case, it is in English folk tales; the dragon is described as a monster, a devil and cruelty. It is a common knowledge that the Bible portrayed dragons in a very negative way, equally with Satan. In English speaking countries when you entitle a woman a dragon, you imply that she is fierce and horrible” (Tiger). However, it is not all the cases that the attitude of English and Vietnamese are always different. When living and working with the animals, human beings have the same feelings towards some certain animals. “Fox” would be a good example for this Fox is supposed to be tricky by both Western and Eastern conception. “Deal with a fox, think of his tricks”. Such as the English saying goes, “The fox changes his skin but not his habit”. Also, Vietnamese idiom has “cáo mượn oai hùm” In short, the language only is a part of culture, and

the culture is not equal to the language, the culture is bigger than the language, alone itself is not impossible independently to exist outside the language system, in other words, the language and the culture are one kind of complex interrelation. Moreover, human beings are not the only animated objects in the world. There are all kinds of animals all over the world Some animals live distantly from human beings, such as penguins. Since they live so far that normal people are not familiar with them, the unfamiliar animal terms are seldom used in languages. But some other animals live close to human beings, such as domestic animals dog, cat, cow . People raise them as pets, keep them for food or make them guards to protect people. As a result, human beings clearly know their habits and characteristics. Such animal terms occur in human language more frequently as in “cats and dogs”, “as wise as an owl”. It is apparent that people habitually relate English and Vietnamese

idioms about animals 12 certain persona with certain creatures. These qualities frequently provoke certain reactions or emotions. English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 13 Through the explanations above, I would like to discuss more about the implication of how culture affects language; in this specific case is idioms. Should students learn culture and language separately or simultaneously? With the advance of the world, people are engaged in more intercultural communication than before. Therefore, learning a new language takes on more tasks and contributes more to not only its language but its culture as well. We should look at the cultural differences reflected in English and Vietnamese idioms, and to offer a principle for and some methods of dealing with cultural differences in learning English through idioms. Idioms, just like other fixed expressions in any language, Vietnamese or English, must be memorized. Depending on the learner and the idiom type, this process can be

slightly easy or infuriatingly difficult. Children learning their native language seem to pick up idioms quite easily. Additionally, they treat idioms as if they were simply instances of normal language. It is accurate to treat idiom components as meaningful that can hinder both one’s original learning of an expression and one’s learning how to use that expression appropriately. For this reason, among others, idioms pose particular problems for people learning a second language (Glucksberg, 2001). When people begin learning a second language, they often choose to translating utterances in the new language into their native tongue. This does not pose difficult problems for expressions that are intended literally. However, it poses particular difficulties for fixed expressions that cannot be translated such as idioms. That’s why, when we study idioms, we have to study them in certain situations, in cultural context, to fully understand their meanings. Language is a carrier of

culture and a medium used in communication. As the English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 14 crystals of human languages, idioms mirror human wisdom in the process of conceptualization of the world. Human life is colorful and idioms correspondently reflect various social activities. At the same time, human beings use idioms to express their experiences therefore idioms come from different origins. Idioms reflect the cultural influence of that language. Therefore, when we learn English idioms, it is necessary for us to know the cultural connotation for appropriate and successful communication. English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 15 Conclusion To sum up, every person possesses her or his own unique culture, which makes his or her way of expression unique. Therefore, idioms of one person differ from those of another, due to cultural differences. Having discussed the cultural differences reflected in English and Vietnamese idioms, a standard is presented, under which

some methods follow to handle cultural differences in idioms’ learning. In addition, a good job in idioms’ learning is supposed to have a thorough understanding of cultural differences and to comprehensively utilize the methods with flexibility. English and Vietnamese idioms about animals 16 Works Cited Cambrigde international Dictionary of Idioms. (1998) Cambrigde University Press Glucksberg, S. (2001) Understanding Figurative Language: From Metaphors to Idioms NewYork: Oxford University Press. Hùng, N. Đ Tuyển Tập Thành Ngữ Tục Ngữ Ca Dao Việt Anh Thông Dụng Ho Ch iMinh: Ho Chi Minh City Press. Nói Chuyện Về Tuổi Rồng. (nd) Retrieved October 29, 2009, from http://my.operacom/maisonbk1905/blog/noi-chuyen-rong Siefring, J. (Ed) (2004) Oxford Dictionary of idioms Oxford University Press Tiger. (nd) Retrieved October 29, 2009, from Chinese Zodiac: (http://pages.infinitnet/garrick/chinese/tigerhtml) Wright, J. (2002) Idioms Organiser (M L Jimmie Hill,

Ed) Boston, MA: Christopher Wenger.