Skating onto your Spotify with dancing queens, young and sweet only seventeen, the one and only ABBA are a fine and prime specimen of the most popular karaoke artists of all time. Amongst their lively lyrics that are worthy of a table dance or two, or your own resounding rendition at the top of your lungs*, are a whole bunch of idioms in our target language. From the release of their very first single back in 1974, the Swedish pop band are STLL selling a gobsmacking one million songs a year – (MmmmHMMM! My jaw dropped too. I’ve always thought they were a bit ‘naff*.’) Yet I guess their tunes are a tiny, teeny-weeny* bit infectious. Rather annoyingly actually.
What is an idiom?
An idiom is a phrase, but it is different from other phrases in that you can’t understand its meaning from the words it is from. You can only understand the phrase through the context in which it is used. If want to become pro in your target language, you’ll need to be able to use idiomatic expression when communicating.
Or, on the other hand, warming up those vocals. Whether we’re singing in the shower, in the rain, in the car or with a pint, music is a part of our lives, language and culture, and it can be a dastardly danceable device for learning and improving your English idioms.
Being a karaoke connoisseur (expert!) can contribute to language learning
Karaoke is a traditional pastime in many cultures, particularly in Japan, and it is used at get-togethers to be las manos en el fuego – (Spanish for 100% sure) that the whole family will take the mic for an evening of entertainment. What’s more is that it serves as a tool in the classroom to improve speaking and listening skills. Makes sense too; since the activity involves you understanding the lyrics, learning words and phrases in your target language and improving your pronunciation.
A common problem with learning a new language is running out of space for storing all that info – (short for information) – and remembering all the meanings can be a mind field*. That’s exactly why catchy choruses, verses full of vim and vigour* and rhythmic melodies can help you learn. Songs and lyrics follow an apparent memorable pattern and, according to studies by psychological scientists and lead researchers such as Ram Frost*, these patterns can aid you in language learning.
Let’s let the lyrics do the talking in some charismatic karaoke of our own…
Da steppt der Bär! – (German for ‘It will be a good party!’)
ABBA – Mamma Mia
Yes I’ve been broken-hearted
Blue since the day we parted
Why, why did I ever let you go?
Broken-hearted: This doesn’t mean your heart has physically shattered into a million pieces and needs to be taken to alts and repairs store to be fixed. No. Although to some, it may damn right feel this way. If someone is broken-hearted, it means that they are ultimately extremely sad due to a tragedy or the end of a romantic relationship. And if you’re the one ending the relationship, I hate to break it to ya*, but you could be the villain in all this; breaking someone’s heart.
Where does it come from? Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. That’s my interpretation of our hearts beating. Precise right? The reason we’re still alive and kicking. It’s the centre of our emotions and that’s where the idea that when are hurt or upset, it breaks, comes from. Watch it in context here to improve your understanding here:
Blue: I can sing a rainbow. Sing a rainbow. Sing a rainbow tooooo. Nahhh. We’re not talking about a colour palette here. That shade you get when you mix red and purple to paint the sky. If you’re ‘feeling blue,’ it means your glum due to gloomy circumstances.
Where does it come from? Being queasy. When people are sick, their skin can look off colour, blu-ish, borderline blueberry.
Not quite as blue as this brat! (Violet Beauregarde, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Let you go: Is it just me or are you picturing someone letting go of someone’s hand over a mountain top? Maybe I watch too many movies. In this context, we’re not talking about holding someone’s hand then letting them go in the physical sense. We’re talking about getting over someone after a relationship.
Where does it come from? You ever heard the phrase ‘If you love someone, set them free?’ It’s the same old yadda*. Basically, letting a significant other go in this sense is stopping yourself clinging onto them emotionally, despite your underlying feelings for them.
Sing that idiom!
Mamma Mia… here we go again… see if you can spot the idioms discussed above in this song:
*top of your lungs – Means very loudly, as loudly as vocally possible
*naff – Informal adjective to describe something that lacks taste and style
*teeny-weeny – Very tiny
*mind field – A subject or situation with hidden problems
*vim and vigour – To say something is ‘full of energy’
*ya – Informal way of saying ‘you’
*yadda - Refers to something that is a minor detail or boring and repetitive