Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to translate idioms

translating idiomatic expression
Translating idioms is an exercise that cannot be improvised. A word-by-word translation is in the best case unsavory, and most of the time a complete nonsense.

For example, how can you translate the idiom to have a frog in one's throat?

Where the Castilian version uses the same image, tener una rana en la garganta, the French one uses another animal, less emblematic (hm, frogs legs…) and more feline: avoir un chat dans la gorge (to have a cat in one's throat).

The website 1,000 images on the tip of my tongue proposes a form to search an idiomatic expression from a word, and shows its meaning, its context of use, and the equivalent expression in both French and Spanish.

Traduire des expressions idiomatiques (in French)
Cómo traducir expresiones idiomáticas (in Spanish)


  1. Great post.I would say that one of the hardest to translate are the idioms.It is not merely translating the word itself.We need to understand the exact meaning of a text in one language and convey it accurately in another. The result will be genuine content, not the mere shadow of an original one.It is where professional Spanish translation put a real hardwork with this piece.

  2. Your webpage for translating English, French or Spanish idioms to either of the other two of those three languages is very useful.
    My own work has been in the area of idiom formation via transliteration.