I think at some point you begin to recognize them. In running text, an idiom sticks out for me as a group of words that somehow didn't seem to fit: I might not know what it means, but it sits there like an odd lump. Duolingo doesn't provide the context that running text does, but if a literal translation doesn't make sense or can't be made to work, it's likely to be an idiom--usually and more specifically, as in this case, a metaphor.
The same thing can happen in your own language. In this example, if you'd never heard the term "movers and shakers" it wouldn't immediately make sense to you ("What are those, barroom dancers? Furniture delivery drivers and martini-mixing bartenders?") but you'd probably realize it was an expression and look for what it meant.
That happens when such slang finds it way into Duolingo basic lessons, people try to translate it as is comes, and the worst thing is as zvezdalion did, it is accepted even if it is totally wrong. Students may memorize the wrong answer and later wonder what rubbish they have learnt! Wow, this isn't right for sure.
"Die hohen Tiere" is certainly not slang. It is just an idiomatic expression, meaning "the well-connected" or "the high and mighty"
This expression dates back to the fifties and earlier, and is not very much used any more - but of course you still can hear it occasionally.
Here is a very nice song which combines the idiomatic meaning with the simplistic meaning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPCLuCR0vA0
Is nothing wrong with it, just wondering how this found its way into Duolingo vocabulary. I always picture my former boss with a pair of moose antlers when I hear that, -so funny. But it isn't used much in German lingo. I would only use when it comes to military ranks in the army.
I can't speak authoritatively about the German sentence, but the translation that Duo originally gave was "She knows many higher-ups," which in US English is slang for "higher ranking people.""Movers and shakers" has a slightly different meaning, I think, along the lines of "powerful people who make important things/changes happen."
It just means: people in higher ranks in business or politics (higher ups), "decorated" personnel in the army, police, etc. The reason why it is used sometimes, is to show that a person you know has good connections to people with influence or to "movers and shakers" and is of interest for this reason, because you may get something "moved" with the help of this particular person, which you would otherwise only dream off....
The expression exists in English, but now that you mention it, it might be a bit dated or perhaps regional. See Merriam Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mover%20and%20shaker To my ear, "big fish" sounds a bit dated, though perhaps it's more regional. More commonly now, I might expect to hear "players."
Yeah, "players" is a good one too. I don't know, I heard "big fish" often in movies and such. And expressions like "the big fish eats the small" as in the rich/powerful rule over/take from the smaller people. That's why I found it weird :) I guess movie culture like "big fish/players"
This conversation makes me realize that I think a slang expression is almost always used for this meaning in English. You could say something like "well placed people" or "people in positions of power," but those expressions seem both less likely and, because they're more specific, not necessarily accurate in a given situation.
This is a link to an obviously English text (the content is also interesting reading) but I post the link here to show that this: "higher-ups" seem to be an ordinary term. Some call it slang, same call it idiomatic expression, -whatever.
follow the link and do a page search: CTRL F: higher-ups just under the picture. :-)
I agree - "higher ups" is also common, and - if I understand Zchbaniel25 correctly, may be a closer translation than either "movers and shakers" and "big fish," as it focuses more specifically on a relative position in a heirarchy rather than on a more general sense of power or the ability to make things happen.
Fascinating discussion. If we keep this up, though, the Duolingo staff may tell us to set up a separate room somewhere. ;-)