Idioms are long-term used by people as permanent saying. So it brings strong ethnic and cultural identity, a cultural of accumulation which requires you understand the deeper meaning of idioms than just stop at the surface while translating. By the communication of the two languages with cultural differences, and then mutual translate flexibly to keep original flavor of idioms.

First see some examples of English idiom: a piece of cake. It reflects a western lifestyle. To westerner, cake is very normal food, both make cake and eat cake just like a breeze. But to us, cake seems to be a luxury, eating cake is enjoyable thing but it is difficult to make. However, there is a saying which is just reflecting our lifestyle:”小菜一碟”, its meaning and function is equal to “a piece of cake”, so the translation of “小菜一碟” express the meaning as well as the feeling without losing original flavor.

Another example: under one’s nose. The westerner’s “big nose” are strongly impressed on our memory. Maybe the westerner know this themselves, so they use “under one’s nose” to express “in front of someone”, if we translate to “在某人鼻子下”literally, it would be not meet the Chinese idioms, losing the flavor, but we can translate to “在某人眼皮底下”, because in our opinion “眼皮底下的眼睛” can discern everything, so “在某人眼皮底下” is the best translation of “under one’s nose”.

“set a fox to keep one’s geese”.

In western cultural , the cunning fox always stealing geese for food, if let the fox to look after the geese, the geese just like staying among the beats. In Chinese this knowing isn’t existing. But we have idiom of “引狼入室”, it is very vivid express “set a fox to keep one’s geese” .

Then see some examples of Chinese idioms, and see how to translate from Chinese into English.


In Chinese it use to describe ”bad habits hard to give up ”, but in western’s opinion dog is “a friend of people” and love it very much. It won’t be express a bad meaning with a dog. So it should be translate to ”A fox may turn gray,but never kind”, because fox is bad animal in western.


It is a very vivid Chinese idiom, compare to someone who have lots of money can make mare listen to him. English translation should be “money makes the mare go”, keep the original flavor, but if translate it into ”all things are obedient to money”, although it express the same meaning ,but not sufficient enough.

Note that the prerequisite of paginal translation is that the signification, cultural connotation of two language must be the same meaning, and not plausible. If translate “armed to the teeth” as “全副武装”, it seems almost, but in fact it is insufficient in signification and the mood is not strong enough, plausible.


It is translate as“make sb. do sth. entirely beyond him”,although the meaning is correct, but is too blunt since it losing its vivid original meaning.

In a word, doing a good translation is very difficult thing, and the translation of idioms is more difficult. To make the translation of idioms not only accurate but vivid, we need lean Chinese and Western cultural and compare the difference between them. Keep the original “style”as much as possible.

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