5 German Idioms Whose Translations Are Worth Remembering!

German Idioms

Every language has its own unique idioms and woe betide any professional German English translator who is not conversant in the idioms of both English and German. Marketing and literary translations are replete with idiomatic usage and here is where a solid cultural grounding in the two languages is absolutely essential if translated text is not to appear strange or clumsy. German is full of colourful expressions and idioms and it’s hard just picking out five which illustrate the rich nature of the language. Here are five phrases and their English translations. You can see straight away just why you must be cautious of literal English German translation!

  1. “Das ist mir wurst” translates literally as “That is just sausage to me”. Idiomatically it means “so what” or “I couldn’t give a damn” or “I couldn’t care less”
  2.  “Ich besorge das Bier” translates literally as “I’ll take care of the beer” and it might very well mean just that. You might hear it if you have made German friends at the Oktoberfest in Munich, for instance, but in reality it means more than just beer. It is a catchphrase for taking care of just about anything, but particularly anything edible or drinkable!
  3. “Kein Schwein war da” literally translates as “no pig was there”, but isn’t a phrase restricted to pig farmers. The word “schwein” in German is colloquially used a lot more than its English equivalent, “pig”. “Kein Schwein war da” could easily mean that nobody turned up! Schwein is often combined into interesting multiple longer compound nouns that don’t have an exact English equivalent. Watch out English German translators!
  4. “Ich habe die Nase voll davon” literally translated means “I have a nose full” but more colloquially means “I have had enough of all that.”
  5. “das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen” is another phrase that cannot be translated directly. This would be another interesting challenge for the likes of Google Translate and all those free translation tools one often uses on social media sites. You think you know what your German friend was saying about you to a friend in German? “das kannst du deiner Oma erzhlen!” “Tell it to your Grandmother” is the literal translation, but is better translated by the very English idiom and probably just as confusing to the German speaker “Pull the other leg!”