An Investigation on the Comprehension of English Idioms Among Moi Primary School Children in Nairobi

Ngoge Tabley Amos, Imelda Hermilinda Abas


The competence in identifying and comprehending the meaning of idiomatic expressions developed at an early age. However, second language learners reach the comprehension skill differently within the age and at pace. There are many unresolved questions regarding the age which children start to comprehend L2 idioms. The objective of this study was to investigate the age at which children in Moi primary school in Nairobi were able to identify and comprehend the meaning of English idioms. The 60 participants were selected using purposive sampling. The children were divided into three age groups: 5-8 years old, 9-12 years old, and 13-16 years old. The participants were balanced in gender and level of formal education. They were asked to identify the correct non-literal meaning of the 20 idioms presented. It was reported that the group with an age range from 5-8 years old scored the lowest among the other.The findings showed that as early as five years of old (preschool age), children begin to understand some kinds of idiomatic expressions and that such ability slowly develops throughout childhood. At the age of 9, children mainly interpreted idioms literally. By the age of 12, they started to understand the non-literal meanings of idiomatic expressions correctly and continued to expand until the age of 16. It implied that age is a factor in the comprehension of idioms among children. Therefore, exposure to language input is vital in the process of early acquisition. The study provides pedagogical observation on early language acquisition. This study also assists the language teachers and language practitioners and material developers in decision making that lead to the development of a better curriculum.


Second Language Learners, Idioms Comprehension, Language Acquisition, Children, Cloze Test

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