There’s a general consensus about the English language: “It’s easy.”
That’s what most of my friends abroad would say. You know, the ones who have English amongst their list of 4-5 languages, while I play a game of charades and repeat “qui, qui!” for no reason to the French lady at the baguette shop — hoping she’d figure out I want the one to the left, not right.
While English is known as a relatively simple language to learn, it shouldn’t be confused for as plain. In fact, it’s a beautifully precise language. There exist thousands of words that are each fit to come as close to expressing a feeling through language as possible.
And guess who also knows this? The makers of the TOEFL. When creating an exam that tests the proficiency of someone’s English skills, vocabulary is crucial. In an academic setting, choosing the right word to express your opinion in a class discussion or coming up with an argument on a research paper all require an understanding of word meaning and connotation. Because universities count on TOEFL exam scores to validate your English skills, the creators of the exam make sure they test you extensively on this.
A friend once told me that learning a language isn’t just about perfecting your accent or ordering breakfast without hand gestures (unless you’re learning Italian, and well, that’s just as important). But this friend said that the day you really know a language is the day you understand its jokes – because that’s where the heart and soul of a language and cultures lies.
Now, while the TOEFL won’t ask you any knock-knock jokes (who’s there?), you should become familiar with common idioms and saying that make everyday life in an English environment all the more easier (and clearer)
Check out Valen, over at EngvID, as she covers 7 commons idioms you’ll hear often in the States.
And make sure to go over the Vocabulary section description of the TOEFL over at The 5 W’s of the TOEFL to know what you’re in for!