GTE Localize

How Do You Translate These Idioms into Your Mother Tongue?

Posted by Anne Q. on November 22, 2019.

Idioms are phrases whose meaning can’t be understood from the original meanings of words in it. Understanding an idiom is challenging but translating them is way more difficult. In many cases, some idioms are even untranslatable. That’s why they are such a challenge and pain in the neck for most translators.

Below are some brilliant yet easy to get lost in translation idioms you don’t want to miss.

1. Chinese idiom

The idiom: 画蛇添足

Literal translation: Drawing a snake with feet

What it means: Telling a story with longwinded and unnecessary information


2. Thai idiom

The idiom: เอาหูไปนา เอาตาไปไร่

Literal translation: The hen sees the snake’s feet and the snake sees the hen’s boobs

What it means: Two people know each other’s secrets


3. Japan idiom

The idiom: 猫の手も借りたい

Literal translation: Willing to borrow a cat’s paw

What it means: You’re so busy that you’re willing to take help from anyone


4. Korean idiom

The idiom:  똥 묻은 개가 겨 묻은 개 나무란다

Literal translation: A dog with feces scolds a dog with husks of grain

What it means: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones


5. German idiom

The idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Literal translation: You have tomatoes on your eyes

What it means: You are not seeing what everyone else can see


6. Portuguese idiom

The idiom: Quem não tem cão caca com gato

Literal translation: Who does not have dog, hunts with cat

What it means: You make the most of what you’ve got


7. Spanish idiom

The idiom: Gato con guantes no caza ratones

Literal translation: Cat with gloves does not hunt mice

What it means: Nice guys finish last


8. French idioms

The idiom: Donner sa langue au chat

Literal translation: Give your tongue to the cat

What it means: I can’t guess – tell me the answer

Now you know how challenging idioms translation is. Next time you translate any idioms, make sure to check them carefully and get help from a native speaker if needed.