English can be a challenging language to learn, just think of all the grammatical mistakes native English speakers make all the time. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 171,476 words currently used in the English language, so imagine how intimidating that number is to someone learning English for the first time.

Making it even trickier? All the idioms we use - the phrases that can’t really be understood based on the meanings of the individual words. Phrases like “Spill the tea” or “Break a leg” can be really confusing to a new English speaker. People from other countries and those just learning to speak English share the American phrases they just don’t get, or like.

  • “Break a leg” - “Every time I hear this phrase I think of literally someone with a broken leg and that vision frightens me,” says Olga Grijalva Alvarez, a Mexican travel writer.
  • “Put lipstick on a pig” - “I hate pigs and the visual of that grosses me out,” explains Jihan Fawaz, a Lebanese language instructor.
  • “I’m working on it” (when talking about food) - “I‘m always surprised when a server at a restaurant asks if I’m still working on my food,” says Virginia Langhammer, a Brazilian who teaches Portuguese. “I’m not working on it, I’m savoring it!”
  • “I can’t even” - “I understood the context when I first heard it in a video. Everything is fine, actually, except the fact that it’s grammatically incorrect,” explains Firdaus Baig, an Indian tutor who teaches Hindi. “When I hear the phrase, I expect it to be completed somehow.”
  • “On a weekly basis” - Brazilian Eli Sousa asks, “Why use such a long phrase to say ‘weekly?’”

More phrases that confuse those learning English as a second language include:

  • “He/she is a keeper”
  • “Hand-me-down”
  • “You can’t be serious”
  • “Tickle me pink”
  • “Literally”
  • “It’s not rocket science”

Source: Huff Post

Talk Back:

  • The fact that so many people use “literally” incorrectly when they say it would be really confusing to someone learning the language!
  • As a lifelong English speaker, what phrases do you not get or care for?
  • If you learned English as a second language, what idioms or expressions were hardest for you to understand?

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