How can I learn so many idioms by heart?
You can’t, and you will be pleased to hear, you don’t need to. It’s a total waste of time to learn lists of idioms by heart. And even if you do, this will not improve your English at all. What is an idiom, anyway? When people are asked for examples of idioms, they often quote fixed phrases like: It’s raining cats and dogs, the pot calling the kettle black, to add insult to injury, and so on. If you’re interested in collections like this, consult specialized dictionaries like The Longman Dictionary of English Idioms (first published 1979). Even if you learnt this dictionary by heart, your English wouldn’t be much better. The dictionary is for you to consult when you hear someone use this kind of idiom and you fail to understand it. What you should be aiming at is not learning ‘idioms’, but acquiring a command of idiomatic English, which is a completely different matter. This means sounding as much as possible like a native speaker of English when you speak, rather than sounding like someone who is constantly translating from Chinese. To improve your command of idiomatic English, you need to remember that English is a word-order language: that is, the basic order is Subject ｜ Verb ｜ Object ｜ Manner ｜ Place ｜ Time. Any departure from this order makes your English sound unidiomatic and ‘foreign’. If, for example, you say ‘I speak well English’ instead of ‘I speak English well’, you will be breaking a fundamental rule in the English language. Another thing to remember is that English prefers phrasal verbs to ordinary verbs. We tend to say ‘Come in!’ when someone knocks at the door, rather than ‘Enter!’; we tend to say ‘Put out the fire/Put the fire out’ rather than ‘Extinguish the fire’. Phrasal verbs often have idiomatic uses, as well as literal uses: ‘Put the cat out’ is a literal use (= put it out of the house); ‘Put the fire out’ is an idiomatic use (= extinguish). You have to learn phrasal verbs as you encounter them in context. Towards the end of my Essential English Grammar, I list fifteen basic grammar rules. A command of these will ensure that your English sounds idiomatic. You will also see that this has nothing at all to do with learning fixed-phrase idioms by heart.
你做不到这点，也没有这个必要。这么说你可能会很高兴。费尽心思死记英语习语表简直是浪费时间。即使你做到了，它们对你的英语学习也无济于事。什么是习语呢?当人们被问起有关习语的例子时，他们总是引用一些固定短语，例如：It’s raining cats and dogs, the pot calling the kettle black, to add insult to injury，等等。如果你对此感兴趣，你可以查一些专门词典，如The Longman Dictionary of English Idioms(1979年第一版)。即使你背下了这本词典，你的英语也不见得长进多大。这本词典是在你听到不能理解的习语时供你查找用的。你现在的任务不是学习这些习语，而是掌握地道的英语，这与学习习语是完全不同的事。这就是说，所说的英语听起来要尽可能像以英语为母语的人所说的那样，而不是在不断翻译汉语。因此，要想学好地道的英语，你就应当记住英语是一种词序语言：即它的基本结构是主语+动词+宾语+方式+地点+时间。如果偏离了这种格式，那么你所说的英语就不是那么地道了，甚至有点儿像“舶来品”。例如，如果你把“我的英语说得很好”说成I speak well English，而不是I speak English well，那么你就违背了英语的一个最基本的规则。另一点值得我们注意的是：在英语中短语动词比普通的动词用得更普遍。当某人敲门时，我们更倾向于说Come in!，而不说Enter!我们倾向说Put out the fire/Put the fire out，而不说Extinguish the fire.短语动词通常有习语的用法，也有按字面意义上理解的用法：Put the cat out 就是字面用法(=把它放在房屋外);Put the fire out是一个习语用法(=使熄灭)。你必须掌握这些短语动词，因为在文中你会经常遇见它们。在我所著的Essential English Grammar的最后，我列举了15条最基本的英语语法规则。掌握了这些就可以使你的英语听起来更地道。你也会发现这与死记固定的英语习语毫不相关。