Proverbs are pithy and concise sayings which are usually age-old expressions for sharing wisdom. They might lack originality because of overuse, but they aptly describe a situation or fit into its context when used appropriately. They are taken from whatever source while crafting a language, for instance, they can come from folklore, incidents, poetry, songs, etc.
Use of Proverbs in language learning
Proverbs play a role in language learning because they enable cultural and metaphorical understanding, alongside providing a communicative edge. The historical and cultural context of proverbs is the reason why a language student tends to gain insight into the linguistic system of a particular language, thereby gaining fluency. Moreover, working on the interpretation of the proverbs makes it even easier to understand and memorize the structure and method of communication of a language.
Proverbs, adages, or aphorisms: which one best shares the wisdom?
All three terms are tools of communication and knowledge-sharing, but have only slight differences according to context and usage. However, in routine conversation, we often use them interchangeably, making all of them sound similar. Here we have expanded on these overlapping terms to make the concept clearer and more understandable.
As defined earlier, proverbs are pithy and insightful sayings that usually belong to age-old traditions or incidents. They originate from common sense or experience and are often used as advice.
Make hay while the sun shines
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
On the other hand, adages are more like general truths rather than advice. They arise from common observations and are not as commonly used as proverbs.
Art lies in concealing the art
The people reign, the elite rule
Aphorisms are short, clever, and concise sayings that often need interpretation to understand. They base on general truths like adages, but are more direct and summed up.
Measure twice and cut once
Easy come, easy go
Overall, what shares the wisdom best depends on the context or scenario in which they are used. Also, it might depend on and differ according to the linguistic system of a particular language.
Language proverbs from around the world
There are so many languages with proverbs related to their linguistic system. Here we have discussed some of the most popular languages’ proverbs.
English Language Proverbs
The major sources of English proverbs can be folklore, literature, or the Holy Scripture. Also, they include proverbs borrowed from other languages, like French or Latin.
Examples of English proverbs are
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
It means something that you have is better than the other thing that you do not have.
- A stitch in time saves nine
It means you should complete a task on time before it gets even more difficult in the future.
Spanish Language Proverbs
Spanish proverbs mostly originate from ancient Spanish culture and literature.
- El hábito no hace al monje (literal meaning: habit does not make the monk)
It means that appearance doesn’t determine who a person is.
- Cada martes tiene su domingo (literal meaning: Each Tuesday has its Sunday)
It implies that there is “good” likely to come with or after every “bad”.
Russian Language Proverbs
Russian proverbs are picked from history and are known for being witty and sarcastic.
Some examples are:
- Кто не рискует, тот не пьет шампанского (Literal meaning: He who doesn’t take risks, doesn’t drink champagne)
It means that those who take risks become successful and vice versa.
- Живы бу́дем — не помрём (We will be alive, we won’t die)
It means that we must stay hopeful for good days in the future.
Japanese Language Proverbs
Japanese proverbs often originate from older Chinese proverbs or traditional Japanese culture.
A few examples include
- 案ずるより産むが易しい。 (Literal meaning: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it)
It means doing something practically is easier than worrying about it.
- 花は桜木人は武士 (Literal meaning: Of flowers, the cherry blossom; of men, the warrior)
It means as the cherry blossom is the best among flowers, warriors are the best among men.
Language proverbs are a wisdom-sharing tool among different cultures, as well as within the same culture. They convey insightful and deep ideas utilizing memorable phrases or sentences. Moreover, they are proof of the strong mental ability of human beings that develops over time through diverse experiences. These experiences then pass over to the next generations as valuable knowledge that can be applied to one’s daily life. One cannot underestimate the enormous methodological and practical value of using proverbs and sayings in the process of learning a foreign language.
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