40+ Foreign Language Idioms With Pronunciations From Native Speakers

What do you know about Foreign Language Idioms?

All I know is it’s always fun to learn foreign language idioms. If you randomly bust out one of these idioms in conversation with native speakers, they will be pleasantly surprised or probably just crack up. That’s why I was excited about compiling these idioms from different countries including its audio pronunciation.

But first, I’d like give one ConnectPals member a shout out as she suggested this language exchange challenge. Her name is Ksenia and on one of our blog posts she commented:

Will be great to collect some examples of idioms and common saying in different languages (saying break a leg we wish someone a good luck)

So without further ado, here are the challenge instructions:


We’ll be collecting “idioms” or “idiomatic expressions” in different languages! So let’s help each other out so everyone can contribute

📒So choose an idiom in your language! The more peculiar your idiom, the better!

📱Challenge 1: Writing
1. Write your chosen idiom in your language (romanized version.)
2. Write its literal translation in English.
3. Write what it really means in English.

🎙Challenge 2: Audio
4. Record one audio then:
-state your name, country, & language.
-pronounce your idiom clearly (in your language.)
-state its actual meaning in English.

40+ Foreign Language Idioms With Pronunciations From Native Speakers

With 40+ nationalities participating in this challenge, here are the idioms or idiomatic expressions shared by our participants. So get your earphones ready!

  • Algeria 🇩🇿
  • Native Language: Arabic

tar elhamam

Literal translation: Pigeons flew

Actual meaning: the thing or subject that we talked about is done and is too late to be changed.

  • Angola 🇦🇴
  • Native Language: Portuguese

advogado do diabo

​Literal translation: Devil’s advocate

Actual meaning: a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments.

  • Argentina 🇦🇷
  • Native Language: Spanish

a caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes

Literal translation: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth (teeth)

Actual meaning: It means when someone  give you a gift, you must not criticize the gift. You must be grateful for the gift no matter what it is.

  • Australia 🇦🇺
  • Native Language: English

a cold one

Actual meaning: Often used when having a few beers at a friends house.
When you finished your drink, you will ask whoever is closest, or up at the fridge to get you a beer.

  • Austria 🇦🇹
  • Native Language: German

was der bauer nicht kennt, das frisst er nicht.

Literal translation: What the farmer does not know, he does not eat.

Actual meaning: It’s used when a family member or friend for example don’t want to try new food because it’s new. It also can be used in other topics than food as well.

  • Brazil 🇧🇷
  • Native Language: Portuguese

ferver em pouca água

Literal translation: to boil in a small amount of water

Actual meaning: Those who boil in a small amount of water are very explosive unpredictable people, who have a little patience. Small things make them angry.

  • Chile 🇨🇱
  • Native Language: Spanish

se me echó la yegua

Literal translation: My mare has decided to lie down

Actual meaning: When you are tired and you don’t want to do anything, you say se me echó la yegua.

  • China 🇨🇳
  • Native Language: Chinese

huà shé tiān zú

Literal translation: Paint a snake with feet.

Actual meaning: Ruin the effect by adding something superfluous

  • Czech Republic 🇨🇿
  • Native Language: Czech

nemaluj čerta na zeď

Literal translation: Don’t paint a devil on the wall.

Actual meaning: Don’t be so pessimistic, or don’t expect the worst.

  • Egypt 🇪🇬
  • Native Language: Arabic

fe almushamish

Literal translation: in apricot

Actual meaning: an impossible thing or something will never happen.

  • England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
  • Native Language:English

speak of the devil

Actual meaning: We say this when you are talking about someone and then they appear.

  • Ethiopia 🇪🇹
  • Native Language: Amharic

yokotun awerdalew bila yebebetuan talech

Literal translation: He/she wanted to get what was too high to reach but ended up dropping what he/she had held in her armpits.

Actual meaning: It means that you sometimes forget what you have and end up losing it because we aim too high.

  • France 🇫🇷
  • Native Language: French

mettre son grain de sel

Literal translation: to put in one’s grain of salt.

Actual meaning: It means to interfere in someone’s business, to give someone unsolicited opinion, to take part in a conversation we are not invited…

  • Greece 🇬🇷
  • Native Language: Greek

stou koufou tin porta oso theleis vroda.

Literal translation: Knock as much as you wish on a deaf’s man door.

Actual meaning: It’s pointless to try to convince someone who’s unwilling to hear.

  • Hungary 🇭🇺
  • Native Language: Hungarian

kolbászból van a kerítés

Literal translation: Fence is made out of sausage.

Actual meaning: When a place is better than yours or you can be more successful there.

  • India 🇮🇳
  • Native Language: Hindi

adhjal gagri chalkat jai

Literal translation: An empty vessel make more noise.

Actual meaning: a foolish shouts more but the wise one is calm

  • Indonesia 🇮🇩
  • Native Language: Indonesian

makan asam garam

Literal translation: eating acid and salt

Actual meaning: Full of life experiences, may they be good or bad.

  • Iran 🇮🇷
  • Native Language: Farsi


Literal translation: Pear

Actual meaning: It’s an adjective that is used for lazy and stupid people.

  • Israel 🇮🇱
  • Native Language: Hebrew

lo bokhim al khalav shenishpakh

Literal translation: You don’t cry over spilled milk.

Actual meaning: You shouldn’t be sorry for something that happened, and that you can’t change it.

  • Italy 🇮🇹
  • Native Language: Italian

carta canta, villan dorme

Literal translation: paper sings, peasan sleeps

Actual meaning: When you have something written is more reliable than something just a word of mouth

  • Japan 🇯🇵
  • Native Language: Japanese

tadekuu mushimo sukizuki

Literal translation: There are even bugs that eat knotweed

Actual meaning: Some people like what many people hate. It varies what people like.

  • Kazakhstan 🇰🇿
  • Native Language: Kazakh

eshten kesh zhaqsy

Literal translation: Better late than never

Actual meaning: All the good thing should be done sooner or later.

  • Mexico 🇲🇽
  • Native Language: Spanish

el que es perico donde quiera es verde

Literal translation: The one who is parrot is green wherever he is.

Actual meaning: This phrase means that the people who is really good at something will still be good at their craft no matter the situation is or wherever they are.

  • Myanmar 🇲🇲
  • Native Language: Burmese

taw thar

Literal translation: Jungle’s son
Actual meaning: very stupid and uncivilized guy.

  • Paraguay 🇵🇾
  • Native Language: Guarani / Spanish


Literal translation: little dog

Actually meaning: A person that is known for informing authority figures of someone’s bad or illegal behavior. Typically used by kids when one of them goes and tells their parents about other’s misbehavior.

  • Peru 🇵🇪
  • Native Language: Spanish

tirarse la pera.

Literal translation: Throwing away the pear.

Actual meaning: It means missing work, school or university on purpose.

  • Philippines 🇵🇭
  • Native Language: Filipino

dumudugo ang ilong ko

Literal translation: I’m nosebleeding

Actual meaning: Something is too hard or complicated. Usually used when someone is speaking full-on English or “deep” Filipino; and you want to say that it’s too hard or complicated to understand.

  • Poland 🇵🇱
  • Native Language: Polish

wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu

Literal translation: Drill a hole in a someone’s belly

Actual meaning: importune (harass) somebody of something

  • Portugal 🇵🇹
  • Native Language: Portuguese

depressa e bem não há quem

Literal translation: Quick and well, there is no one

Actual meaning: It means that no one can do something perfect in a little time. All good things need some time to be done accordingly.

  • Russia 🇷🇺
  • Native Language: Russian


  • South Africa 🇿🇦
  • Native Language: Afrikaans


  • South Korea 🇰🇷
  • Native Language: Korean


  • Spain 🇪🇸
  • Native Language: Spanish

más sabe el diablo por viejo, que por diablo.

Literal translation: The devil knows more because he’s old than because he’s the devil.

Actual meaning: It means that experience is what gives you more knowledge and wisdom. The older you are, the more you know.

  • Tanzania 🇹🇿
  • Native Language: Swahili

siku ya kufa kwa nyani miti yote uteleza

Literal translation: The day a monkey is destined to die, all trees become slippery.

Actual meaning: The day you fail in to something, everything you try won’t work out fine.

  • Thailand 🇹🇭
  • Native Language: Thai

chang tai tung tau aow bai bua pid

Literal translation: Using a lotus leaf to cover a dead elephant

Actual meaning: When someone tries to hide his guilt or mistake but he can’t

  • Turkey 🇹🇷
  • Native Language: Turkish

atı alan üsküdar’ı geçti

Literal translation: Someone who hold a horse already have passed Üsküdar

Actual meaning: He whoever acts quickly will arrive (to his destination) whether he is aware of it or not.

  • United States 🇺🇸
  • Native Language: English

it’s raining cats and dogs

Actual meaning: it’s raining very heavily

  • Vietnam 🇻🇳
  • Native Language: Vietnamese

ếch ngồi đáy giếng

Literal translation: The frog at the bottom of the well

Actual meaning: When someone thinks that they are very important, like the frog in the well believes that the sky is as small as the lid of a cooking pot. Egotistic, stuck-up is the same meaning.

So there you have it!

Did you learn something today? If you haven’t join us yet, feel free to register to ConnectPals for free and be part of our growing Language Exchange community.

Anyhow, what Language Exchange Challenge do you want us to do next? Feel free to leave a reply in the comment section below!

UPDATE: Comments are disabled at this moment but do contact @connectpals if you have something to say. =)

Contributed by Dan

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ksenia

    Thank u ?? idioms make our speech more natural

Comments are closed.