The Literal Translation of German Proverbs Into English

Some German proverbs are often translated literally, such as “One can’t jump over one’s own shadow” which written in German is “Man kann nicht über seinen eigenen Schatten springen.” This is better translated into English as. “One cannot deny one’s own nature”. An explanation often needs to accompany literal translations of proverbs.

 “Ich glaub ich spinne” when  translated has nothing to do with spiders but means the habit of people gathering  together on dark, cold winter nights, telling yarns and tall stories while fixing things such as garden tools. This is of course happened more often in more traditional times.

Further proverbs are listed below

  • “There’s getting the dog in the pan crazy” which in German is translated as “Da wird der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt.
  • “Nur die Harten kommen in den Garten” when translated by a German translator meansOnly the strongest will survive.”
  • “Kinder und Betrunkene sagen immer die Wahrheit” when translated into a German English translation means “it’s difficult to source someone who speaks the truth”.
  • “Du gehst mir tierisch auf den Keks when translated into English means “You are driving me quite crazy.”
  • “Zu viele Köche verderben den Brei” when translated comes out as “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
  • “Klappe zu, Affe tot” when translated means “Let us finally put an end to this”.
  • “Auf einem Bein steht man nicht gut” means: “You will need to consume no less than three drinks in order to enjoy yourself”.
  • “Ich glaub, mein Schwein pfeift” comes out with the meaning “I do not believe it”.
  • “Die dümmsten Bauern ernten die dicksten Kartoffeln” means “people who are stupid are always winners.”
  • Da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer means “this has caused that.”
  • “Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei” when translated means “All good things have to finish at some time.”
  • “Kleinvieh macht auch Mist” when translated by German translators means

“a small amount may add up to something greater.”

  • “Mir fällt ein Stein vom Herzen!”means literally “Me falls a stone from the heart!”

which in English actually means “I’m relieved!”