This case study of intermediate Norwegian Lower Secondary School learners of English aims to answer the following research questions:
1) To what extent do Norwegian learners of English in Lower Secondary School use idiomatic expression in their written work?
2) If teachers focus more deliberately on idiomatic language while teaching, will the students’ competence in using idiomatic expressions increase? This second question also attempted to find out whether the students would produce more varied or/and sophisticated idiomatic language after an approximately 5-month long period of focused teaching. The material consisted of two sets of 60+ texts each, the majority from the students’ end-of-term evaluations. The texts were analyzed, and the number of idioms used counted, each new idiom registered, along with the number of times each idiom occurred in the material as a whole. In the approximately 5 months between the 1st and 2nd set being produced, the students participated in regular English classes in which there was placed additional focus on the recognition, interpretation and acquisition of idiomatic language. A combination approach was chosen, including cross-language exploration, memorization, interpreting meaning from context and identification, implementing both explicit and implicit teaching strategies.
Idiomatic expressions in the 1st set were very basic, the majority being phrasal or prepositional verbs. The findings indicate that the students in general developed more advanced idiomatic language between the 1st and 2nd sets. There is a notable increase in idioms used, from a total of 146 instances of idiomatic language in the full 1st set of texts, to 246 instances in the full 2nd set. There is also an increase in the number of different idiomatic expressions used by the students; 163 new idiomatic expressions were registered in the 2nd set that had not been present in the 1st set, and a number of these expressions could be traced back to the idiom focused teaching done in the months between the sets of texts being written.
The findings seen overall indicate that idiom-focused teaching was effective in increasing the idiomatic competence of this learner group.