10 Idioms in Translation

They pepper our daily speech and thread themselves through most every conversation, but idiomatic expressions, sayings, and colloquialisms can be the most difficult part of any language to translate.

Because idioms take root in a nation’s customs, history, religion, and even geography, they may become case-specific and their literal definitions seem, oftentimes, nonsensical.

The translator’s job is to extract the figurative meaning of colloquialisms and to find a parallel expression in the target language. Fortunately for translators, all languages contain myriad witty and wise turns of phrase to satisfy speakers of a metaphorical bent. Below are 10 English Idioms and a few of their foreign-language counterparts.

To let the cat out of the bag
Spanish: “levanter la liebre”
French: “vendre la mèche”

Between a rock and a hard place
Spanish: “entre la espada y la pared”
French: “entre le marteau et l’enclume”

When it rains, it pours
Spanish: “llueve sobre mojado”
French: “jamais deux sans trois”

To fit like a glove
Spanish: “ir como anillo al dedo”
German: “das sitzt wie angegossen”

To turn a blind eye
Spanish: “hacer la vista gorda”
French: “fermer les yeux”

It’s a piece of cake
Spanish: “Es pan comido”
French: “C’est du nanan”

Two heads are better than one
Spanish: “Cuatro ojos ven más que dos.”
French: “De la discussion jaillit la lumière.”

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
German: “Man sollte das Fell des Bären nicht verkaufen, bevor man ihn erlegt hat.”
French: “Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.”

His bark is worse than his bite
German: “Bellende Hunde beißen nicht.”
French: “Chien qui aboie ne mord pas.”

It’s a dog-eat-dog world
Spanish: “mundo de fieras”
French: “L’homme est un loup pour l’homme.”


photy by Lanamaniac

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