(Translated from Spanish by our interns.)
The correct use of idioms and proverbs in different languages is a challenge for professional translators and interpreters. We use these fixed expressions every day without realizing it, and a professional translator must know them and their respective translations in order to provide a high quality translation. In today’s post we will find out about some English, German and Spanish proverbs and some interesting facts about them.
I’ve chosen proverbs I thought were more interesting and commonly used but, of course, there are many others I haven’t mentioned. 🙂
– Alle wegen führen nach Rom. If you speak German, I’m sure you’ll already know its translation into English: all roads lead to Rome. This expression is commonly used to indicate that, no matter which path we choose, we will always end up in the same place. It’s believed that this proverb originated during the time of the Roman Empire, when more than 70,000km of roads were built, all of them leading to Rome, the capital of the Empire. In Spanish, the translation is todos los caminos llevan/conducen a Roma.
– Bei Nacht sind alle Katzen grau. In English, this proverb translates into all cats are grey in the dark or at night all cats are gray, and in Spanish de noche, todos los gatos son pardos. This expression refers to appearances and how the flaws of people or things are not noticed in the dark.
– Lügen haben kurze Beine. Surprisingly, there are several ways of saying this proverb in English. You can either say a liar is sooner caught than a cripple or lies have short legs. In Spanish, we can say both antes se coge al mentiroso que al cojo or se pilla antes a un mentiroso que a un cojo. The meaning is clear: it is easy to tell if somebody is lying when his or her story is not consistent.
– Vier Augen sehen mehr als zwei. The literal translation is four eyes see more than two and funnily enough there is a similar proverb in English which reads: two heads are better than one. In both cases, the meaning is that two people working together have a better chance of solving a problem than one person working alone. In Spanish we say más ven cuatro ojos que dos or cuatro ojos ven más que dos.
– Morgen, morgen, nurnichtheute, sagen alle faulen Leute. This one’s equivalent in English is never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. The Spanish equivalent is no dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy. This proverb warns about the risk of procrastination: it’s wiser to do what needs to be done when we’re able to do it instead of postponing it and finishing it in a rush. 😉
Two more curious proverbs:
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
A caballo regalado no le mires el diente.
2. Was Hänschen nicht gelernt hat, lernt Hans nimmermehr.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
No puedes enseñar a un perro viejo nuevos trucos.
I’ll leave you with two German proverbs very suitable for today’s post. If you speak a little German, you’ll know their English translation in a flash. If you don’t, what are you waiting for?
Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten / Ende gut, alles gut
Have a good day!
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