5 Idioms to Practise While You Study English in Canada

 Is it a piece of cake, or did she bite off more than she can chew?
Is it a piece of cake, or did she bite off more than she can chew?

Ready to move all the way over to Canada, hit the books, and maybe give up your native language cold turkey during your studies? Worried that if you do, you’ll have bitten off more than you can chew?

Don’t worry, it’ll be a piece of cake!

Not sure what any of these English idioms mean? Idioms are expressions that are commonly used in writing and speech. However, while native speakers know the meaning of the words in these expressions, it can be confusing to understand their significance from their words alone—especially for students still learning the language.

Read on to learn the meanings behind some of the most popular English idioms you’ll hear during your studies.

1. Hit the Books While You Study English in Canada

When someone says hit the books, they don’t want you to actually hit your textbooks. That would hurt! What they really mean is study. And, as a student, you’ll be doing plenty of studying as you learn a second language during your ESL program in Canada.

A CultureWorks student ‘hitting the books.’
A CultureWorks student ‘hitting the books.’

2. Go Cold Turkey: A Strange English Idiom You’ll Learn at ESL School

A turkey is a type of bird that lives in Canada’s wilderness, and as you may have already noticed, it can get very cold during the winter. However, these two bits of information actually have nothing to do with the meaning behind this expression. In fact, this idiom actually means to quit something suddenly. For instance, a smoker might quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey. Another example might be if you decide to only speak in English during your studies, then you’d quit speaking your native language cold turkey.

3. Don’t Bite off More than You Can Chew at English as a Second Language School!

Let’s imagine that you were eating a tasty meal—like a warm poutine or pancakes with maple syrup. In your excitement, you might stuff a huge fork full of your food into your mouth. Unfortunately, it’s too much and now you can’t chew it.

That’s what English speakers mean when they warn you to not bite off more than you can chew. But this idiom doesn’t only apply to food—in fact, it rarely does. It usually means that you’re taking too many classes, committing to too many extracurricular activities, or taking on more responsibility than you can handle. It’s always best to avoid biting off more than you can chew during your English studies.

4. Learn a Rule of Thumb at ESL School in Canada

What is a rule of thumb and why would you ever need to know one? Fortunately, when someone says that something is a rule of thumb, they don’t really mean that it’s a rule made for thumbs, or by thumbs.

Instead, what they mean is that it’s a common rule that everyone follows. For example, in Canada, professionals applying for work will typically show up to their job interviews approximately 15 minutes early. This is not a law, nor a requirement that they must follow. However, it’s a practice or guide that most people adhere to—a rule of thumb.

5. Piece of Cake: A Popular Food-Related English Idiom

This is another popular idiom you might hear while you study English. When someone says something will be a piece of cake, they don’t really mean that it’ll be a tasty dessert.

What they do mean is that it’ll be easy and fun, just like eating a piece of cake. For instance, if a friend tells you that having the support and help of an instructor makes learning English feel like a piece of cake, what they’re saying is that it’s an enjoyable and fun experience.

Want to discover other popular English idioms while you study at an English as a second language school?

Don’t forget to ask your instructors! At CultureWorks, our friendly instructors will be more than happy to answer your questions.