everyone should fear becoming mentally clouded and obsessed with one small section of truth. Xunzi. (c.312 BC – c.230 BC, Chinese Confucian philosopher).
A wise man once said…
“Practice more German to get fluent!”
Okay, okay, you don’t need to be all that wise to know that.
But Germans do have plenty of wise little expressions that won’t just make you sound smarter, but will also give you some insights into German language and culture.
Every language has its own set of wisdom quotes and proverbs that pass on knowledge from generation to generation. They can be really beneficial for language learners, too, as they highlight linguistic quirks and both the similarities and differences between languages.
Just take the following German wisdom quotes for example. Try and drop them into the conversation whenever you can and you’ll sound wise beyond your years!
If you translate Übung macht den Meister literally, you’ll get “practice makes the master.” Of course, that makes no sense in English, and our nearest translation is “practice makes perfect.”
So, take some inspiration for your German studies. The more you practice your grammar and vocabulary, the sooner you’ll become fluent!
Literally translated, bald reif hält nicht steif means “quickly ripened doesn’t hold stiff.”
The best English equivalent, though, is “early ripe, early rotten.”
This expression is often applied to children, as it’s thought that someone with many talents early on in their childhood doesn’t hold onto them for long as they grow up.
When you translate this phrase literally, you get “only the strong come into the garden.”
It basically means only the strongest survive—I’m not really sure what exactly is going on in the garden, but it seems you have to be tough to make it!
Did you know that German has a lot of proverbs and sayings that revolve around sausages? It’s true! The Germans love a good wurst (sausage) so much that they can’t help but write proverbs about them.
This one is easy to understand as it’s quite literal—everything has an end, no matter how long something takes. However, that’s not the case for the good old sausage!
If you translate this quote literally, you get “small animals also produce dung.”
That might not paint such a pretty picture, but it does have a meaningful message behind it: small amounts always add up to something bigger.
So, don’t give up on your German studies, even if it feels like you’re inching along! As this piece of German wisdom indicates, it’s a good idea to keep working on something even if you only do it bit by bit.
This is another animal-themed wisdom quote as it literally translates to “life isn’t a pony farm.”
It basically means that you can’t live like a pony at a pony farm and have your every whim taken care of.
In other words, you can’t always get what you want!
“Children and drunks always tell the truth.” Well, that’s according to the literal translation of this quote. In English we might say something similar: “children and fools tell the truth.”
This phrase can be used to describe certain groups of people who are much more likely to be open and honest about a situation, for better or for worse. Children are the worst at keeping secrets and drunks are often a little loose-tongued too… while the rest of us know how to lie when we want to.
In English, we have the proverb “if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile.” That’s what this German wisdom quote equates to, but if we were to literally translate it, we’d get “if you give the devil your little finger, he’ll take the whole hand.”
Simply put, it means that people can take advantage of you if you let them.
This one doesn’t make much sense when we translate it directly, as it means “close the lid, the monkey is dead.” It raises a lot of questions about that poor monkey.
The English version doesn’t have such dark connotations, thankfully. We’d simply say, “let’s end this” or even “end of story.” And no monkey gets hurt in the process!
We’ve all heard people say “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” which is how we’d usually translate this expression.
But have you ever heard it in German? Was ich nicht weiss, macht mich nicht heiss literally translates to “what I don’t know doesn’t make me hot.”
You can think about that in terms of the English phrase “hot and bothered,” relating to frustration or being flustered.
This is such a cute saying—if you translate it straight, you get “what little Hans doesn’t learn, adult Hans will never know.”
It’s basically our version of “you can’t teach an old dogs new tricks,” but with humans! You should take particular note of the word Hänschen (little Hans) in this sentence. It’s in the diminutive form, which is often used for children’s names.
This German expression warns you, “don’t poke around in the beehive.” But it equates to another one of our dog-themed proverbs in English. We’d say, “let sleeping dogs lie.”
You don’t want to bother the bees or the sleeping dogs. Who knows what they’ll do if you disturb them!
Do you know “where the foxes say good night?” Because that’s what wo sich die Füchse gute Nacht sagen translates to.
Well, we have the answer in U.K. English. The British idiom for a highly remote place, “the back of beyond,” would be an equivalent for this quote. Seen any foxes out there lately?
You’ll have certainly heard the English proverb, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, it’s pretty similar in German.
Besser ein Spatz in der Hand, als eine Taube auf dem Dach actually translates to “a sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the roof.” The Germans just specify which birds they’re talking about in their quote.
The Germans will tell you that “work is the best jacket.” And we’d agree as our version of this wisdom quote is “the best way to warm yourself up is by doing something useful.”
Feeling cold? Maybe you should try to warm yourself up by learning some German vocabulary!
So, next time you’re chatting in German, you should try and throw in some of these wisdom quotes. You’ll sound wise as well as fluent!
What’s the key to learning German language and culture effectively?
It’s using the right content and tools.
You’re not going to pick it all up from your textbook.
You’re going to learn it from real-world videos like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks.
Well, that’s exactly what FluentU is for. FluentU takes great videos and turns them into language learning experiences so that you can learn real German as people really speak it:
Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocabulary list.
And FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a complete platform for learning. It’s designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. This is a level of personalization that hasn’t been done before.
Start using FluentU on the website or practice anytime, anywhere with the iOS and Android apps.
Laura Harker is a freelance writer based in North Yorkshire, U.K.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.
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I wanted to give my eldest a different birthday present this year and seeing that ' words' are what I do best, I chose to pass on some wisdom that.
Wisdom need not always be verbose. In fact, some of the wisest, most memorable quotes by famous people are pretty darn short, yet they pack a lot of meaning in their punch. Keeping it short works well probably because of K.I.S.S.: "Keep it simple, stupid."
George Bernard Shaw: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."
Mother Teresa: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
Lucille Ball: "Love yourself first, and everything else falls into place."
Stephen Colbert: "Dreams can change. If we’d all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses."
Oprah Winfrey: "Failure is another stepping-stone to greatness."
Stephen Hawking: "Be curious."
Mother Teresa: "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
Michelle Obama: "Success isn't about how much money you make. It's about the difference you make in people's lives."
Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
Gabrielle Giffords: "Be bold, be courageous, be your best."
Madeleine Albright: "Real leadership...comes from realizing that the time has come to move beyond waiting to doing."
Babe Ruth: "Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back."
Seneca: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
Anna Quindlen: "Don’t ever confuse the two: your life and your work. The second is only part of the first."
Thomas Jefferson: "He who knows best knows how little he knows."
Dolly Parton: "If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
Francis David: "We need not think alike to love alike."
John Quincy Adams: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."
Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Malcolm X: "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."
Hillary Clinton: "Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward."
Thomas A. Edison: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
Katie Couric: "You can't please everyone, and you can't make everyone like you."
Jon Bon Jovi: "Miracles happen every day. Change your perception of what a miracle is and you'll see them all around you."
Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you."
Tina Fey: "There are no mistakes, only opportunities."
Francis Bacon: "A prudent question is one half of wisdom."
Sheryl Sandberg: "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on."
Eleanor Roosevelt: "Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Florence Nightingale: "I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse."
Edwin Land: "Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."
Maya Angelou: "You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: "When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be."
Rosa Parks: "When one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear."
Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right."
Gloria Steinem: "Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."
Christopher Reeve: "Once you choose hope, anything's possible."
Kate Winslet: "Life is short, and it is here to be lived."
Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Alice Walker: "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any."
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: "Great acts are made up of small deeds."
Amelia Earhart: "The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity."
Ellen DeGeneres: "Sometimes you can't see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others."
Walt Disney: "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."
One liners, short thoughts of wisdom and captions for your bio, social status, self- talk, motto, mantra, signs, posters, wallpapers.