GET Staff Blog

July 19, 2016





Do you know any proverbs?



Proverbs like “When in Rome do as the Roman do” are only the tip of the iceberg. English teachers love to teach proverbs. And why not? There are loads of proverbs to teach, they are often funny or clever. So what’s the problem?


Well, if you ask me, studying proverbs can be a double-edged sword?



Here’s why they aren’t so great.


1. So, first things, first, You need to learn to walk before you can run. Proverbs are the extra spice that you add to a conversation; they aren’t a replacement for the conversation itself. Learning proverbs instead of a core vocabulary for communication is likely putting the cart before the horse.



2. Moreover, nowadays there are about 2.4 billion English speakers in the world. However only 400 million of those are “native speakers”. If your goal is to communicate with people from around the world, why use idioms and proverbs that are restricted to smaller speech communities? For example, if you are speaking English to a Korean person on your business flight to Shanghai, dropping the proverb “don’t judge a book by its cover” might actually be hindering your ability to communicate.



The GOOD 良い点

Ok, let’s look on the bright side and talk about why proverbs might be nice.

1. First, proverbs can be nice/funny conversation starter that lead to more conversation. After all, practice makes perfect so if proverbs lead to more practice, why not?


1.まず、ことわざはさらなる会話につながる 気の利いた/面白い 会話のきっかけになり得ます。つまり習うより慣れよと言うように、ことわざがさらなる練習につながるなら、いいんじゃないですか?


2. Proverb can provide interesting insights into culture. For example the proverbs “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together” and “it takes a whole village to raise a child” tell us something about a cultural values of the speech group that commonly use them.



Ok, so last but not least, the real reason to study proverb is simply because “I like them”.
If you enjoy learning proverbs, it doesn't’ matter if they are useful or not, you are learning something that you enjoy! How great! The best reason to learn is simply because you find it interesting. No harm no foul!


What do you think? Is it worth it to learn Proverbs?


Ok, that’s it......errr.. all is well that ends well.



Key Phrases


Proverbs (ことわざ、言いまわし)

・When in Rome do as the Roman do = 郷に入っては郷に従え

・the tip of the iceberg = 氷山の一角

・be a double-edged sword = 諸刃の剣だ

・first things first = まず大事なことから始めて

・to learn to walk before you can run  = 一歩一歩着実に身につける (歩くことを覚えて初めて走ることができる)

・putting the cart before the horse = 本末転倒 (馬の前に荷台を置くようなもの)だ

・don’t judge a book by its cover = 物事を見た目で判断するな (本を表紙だけで判断するな)

・look on the bright side = 前向きに考えて (良い面を見てみよう)

・practice makes perfect = 習うより慣れよ

・if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together = 急いで行きたいのなら1人で行きなさい、遠くへ行きたいのならみんなで行きなさい

・it takes a whole village to raise a child = 子どもを育てるには村全体が必要です

・last but not least = 最後になりますが重要じゃないという訳ではありません

・No harm no foul = 害がないなら、問題ない

・all is well that ends well = 終わりよければすべてよし



Thanks for reading and see you next time!





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