Translating Elderly Wisdom: Famous Proverbs in Spanish
The world we live in is a result of the decisions of billions of people across the globe. In one way or another, everything our ancestors did bears some level of influence in modern culture. One of the most compelling aspects of this influence is met through proverbs. The proverbs our grandparents and parents say have an impact on the way we, as a younger generation, think and speak. These bits of common wisdom not only tell us about our culture, but also what we value and how we look at the world. Some of these famous Spanish proverbs might have English translations or parallels, while others might be completely new to you. Either way, Spanish-speaking people will be pleasantly surprised to hear that you know these sayings! Keep in mind that some of these may sound strange in English because the rhymes and rhythms get lost in translation. However, the meaning behind the phrases is the same.
“Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente”
This proverb talks about patience, opportunity, and attention. It translates as “If a shrimp falls asleep, the current will take them away.” You can say this to someone who’s taking too long to decide something, or to someone who’s being lazy and distracted. This is also an example of proverbs made into songs, as we will soon see in some of the other sayings in our list here. An artist called Ricky Maravilla (Ricky Wonder in English) made a song about this proverb. Check out the video to learn some Spanish!
“El comal le dijo a la olla: ¡Qué tiznada estás!”
This one I also learned about through a song by Cri Cri, a well known Mexican band that sings songs for kids. The song “El Comal le Dijo a la Olla” talks about this saying. This one actually has an English translation: “The pot calling the kettle black.” Interestingly, comal actually means griddle, but not just any kind of griddle. Comales are clay or metal griddles that are widely used in Central and South America to cook things like tortillas, nuts, or meat. If you want to know more about tortillas and comales, make sure to check out our blog on tortilla culture!
“El que madruga Dios lo ayuda”
Translates to “He who gets up early is helped by God,” but the parallel to this in English is “The early bird gets the worm.” I always thought this phrase was funny in English. I remember thinking to myself: Wouldn’t the early worm get eaten by the bird? Worms that get up early make easy prey for birds, so maybe waking up early is not as great as it seems! It’s all a joke though, there’s a reason this saying spans across different languages. I just like to sleep in!
Dare to be wise!
These are only some of the proverbs that grandmas all over Latinoamérica share with us. These beautiful bits of wisdom help us grow up and learn about the world. Asking people to share some common wisdom can be a great way to meet locals during your travels. If you want to learn more proverbs, why not take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy? With enough practice, you’ll learn all kinds of quotes and phrases!
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