Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery." Mark Amidon

When I taught ESL classes at George Fox, I tried to balance my lesson plans with the scholarly and the practical. Some of the things the students loved to learn about, and often asked me about, were American idioms and proverbs. They heard them every day, but couldn't make heads nor tails out of them.

We talked about idioms, like “a red herring,” “pulling one’s leg,” “raining cats and dogs,” and “a piece of cake.”

And then we moved on to discuss proverbs or adages, such as:

“Barking dogs seldom bite.”

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

“Don’t cry over spilled milk.”

After they got the hang of using some of these quirky phrases, I would ask them to think about and share similar proverbs from their own language. Here are some Japanese proverbs. Are they as clear as mud to you?

“Even monkeys fall out of trees.” (Our Japanese son, Takashi, used this one frequently.)

“After the rain, earth hardens.”

“He takes dumplings over flowers.”

“Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.”

“The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.”

Can you try to guess the meaning of these five Japanese proverbs?

I like the last one, because it seems to me to be the complete opposite of one of our English proverbs and points out a great difference in the Japanese and American way of thinking. For that one, maybe you can think of the opposing American proverb. We also have one that is similar in meaning. Which one would that be?

Give it a try! I'll post the meanings in a few days. (But not unless some of you play along!)


Anonymous said...

It's all Greek to me.


Linda said...

Clever, GR! ;-)

Mommy said...

Here's my guess!
1. Everyone has their day.
2. I don't have a clue.
3. The way to his heart is through his stomach.
4. There is no way to cure an idiot; only death.
5. Those who stick out in a crowd get noticed.

Linda said...

Good work, Mommy B! I'll wait a few days to give others a chance, and then give the generally accepted explanations.

Anonymous said...

GR (Nana in the North said)...

1. Nobody's perfect.
2. Seasons come and seasons go.
Guess #2a. What goes around come around.
3. The way to a man' sheart is through his
4. Some people never learn.
4a. Once a blonde always a blonde.
5. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Linda said...

Wow! You guys are pretty good! Keep watching for the "answers."