I have a long standing fascination with proverbs and their translations into other languages.
Below are nine Spanish proverbs featuring animals and I am pretty sure that you will know most of them from your own culture.
- A caballo regalado no le mires el diente.
- Como pez en el agua.
- Cría cuervos, y te sacarán los ojos.
- Como elefante en cristalería.
- Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.
- Matar dos pájaros de un tiro.
- Perro ladrador, poco mordedor.
- Si quieres el perro, acepta las pulgas.
- Ser un pez gordo.
For a fun reading activity read the proverb to students and have them match the proverb to the right animal type picture below. Note: There is an odd one out.
Answers: 1-C, 2-D, 3-B, 4-odd one out (elephant), 5-B, 6-B, 7-A, 8-A, 9-D; All photo Credits: maryglasgowplus.com
Now ask students to find a translation for the proverbs. You might want to split your class into pairs and have individual pairs working on one proverb only. Depending on level they might need the help of a dictionary.
Use students’ translations for a first discussion about problems of translations:
- What are the equivalents of the proverbs in your language?
- What are the literal translations of the proverbs into your language?
- What do we get from literal translation that we don’t get from equivalent expressions? (Understanding of cultural differences, flavour/characterisation of other culture)
- What are the problems with literal translations? (Lack of precision, obscurity)
How do you incorporate translation into your teaching? How important do you consider translation to be within language teaching?