Does the English language take a toll on English Language Learners?

It is a privilege to work with international students; I wonder if they will take part of my teaching with them back to their countries and teach others - just one thing - that I have taught them. I hope so! As well as the short term goal(s) of learning English well enough to pass a course, get into graduate school, or just have a more meaningful exchange with peers, I am hopeful that learning more about a language will contribute to citizens of all countries coming to a greater understanding of one another, and as Anna Quindlen says in one of our essays, realizing our greater "interconnectedness." That's the good part.

The part that can be frustrating - for my students - and sometimes for me - is the complicated nature of English - the nuances, idioms, the quirks that must be explained, mulled over, and often explained again. I never tire of trying to find new ways to explain, but the mental work my students must do sometimes takes a toll.

Toll - wait a minute, what does this have to do with a toll road, a toll bridge? Are we talking about turnpikes here???

Toll roads exist in just about all developed countries, but the English language gives us another way to use this word.

Yes, it's an idiom.

According to an online dictionary, the meaning of "take its toll" means to be damaging or harmful, cause loss or destruction.

Sample sentence
The citizens were lucky to have survived the earthquake, but the loss of their homes and their way of life would take its toll for years to come.

Toll can also mean "the extent of damage or loss." This is not an idiom, but a different dictionary meaning; the word does not just mean a road that we must pay to use.

Sample sentence: (Here, I have also provided context.)
Newspaper Headline: Accident on I- 55 - Death, Injuries, Stranded Motorists.
Beginning of newspaper article:
The mulit- car pile up was a true disaster; the final toll was 15 dead, and 22 injured. The highway was closed for 36 hours and affected a two -state area.

Hope this was helpful! Look for a new post on idioms next week!


Fran M.

HomeSchool Teacher and Academic Coach - Pre-K thru University Level

20+ hours
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