At SpokenHere, learning about different cultures and their languages is something we have the privilege of doing each and every day. Of course, helping our clients be understood is a job we take extremely seriously, but it is also something we are very passionate about. When we talk about the importance of partnering with a professional translation service, we often mention that there are many phrases, idioms, and jargon that just do not translate well from one language to another. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we thought we would take the time to share some examples of Spanish phrases and words that do not translate well into English.

Spanish phrase: En boca cerrada, no entran moscas

Literal English Translation: Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.

Meaning: It is best to keep your mouth shut rather than risk saying something foolish or incorrect. In English, we have many phrases that mean the same thing such as “silence is golden” and “loose lips sink ships.”

Spanish Phrase: Qué onda?

Literal English Translation: What wave?

Meaning: Slang for “what’s up?” or “what’s going on?” An answer to this or a similar question could also be, “buena onda” which means “good wave.”

Spanish Phrase: Entre broma y broma la verdad se asoma

Literal English Translation: Between jokes and jokes, the truth lurks.

Meaning: The literal translation for this saying is pretty easy to decipher, but because it rhymes in its Spanish version, the true impact of its meaning gets lost in translation.

Spanish Phrase: Ya te cargo el payaso

Literal English Translation: The clown has already picked you up.

Meaning: You are most certainly doomed. The meaning behind this phrase has to do with bull riding in rodeos. The clowns in rodeos are there to distract the bull when the rider gets bucked off. Bull riders know that when they see the clown, the situation is serious.

Spanish Phrase: Me pica el bagre

Literal English Translation: The catfish is biting me.

Meaning: To be so hungry your stomach is hurting, as in with hunger pains.

Spanish Phrase: Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso

Literal English Translation: Keep your accounts clear and your chocolate thick.

Meaning: While chocolate should be thick and opaque, business matters should be clear and transparent.

Spanish Phrase: Más vale ser cabeza de ratón qu cola de león

Literal English Translation: It is better to be the head of a rat than the tail of a lion

Meaning: Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in an ocean.

Spanish Phrase: Zapatero a tus zapatos

Literal English Translation: Shoemaker, to your shoes

Meaning: Stick with what you know.

Spanish Phrase: Le zumba el mango

Literal English Translation: He flings the mango

Meaning: An expression of frustration. Visualize someone being so exasperated that they toss their hands up in the air.

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