Animals and idioms

The elephant in the room, the wolf in sheep’s clothing or the frog in our throat – so many of our idioms revolve around animals. This is not unique to English, many other languages use similar ideas. The fascinating thing, however, is that different languages use different animals. The French, for example, have a cat rather than a frog in their throats. Translators need to understand both cultures in order to be able to successfully and creatively translate idioms.

Some of TED’s translators shared their favourite idioms and illustrated just how tricky translating them can be.


One of the most important things a business translator needs to do, is keep up with the latest jargon. This can be easier said than done. Even when you keep up to date with news items and regularly read business media, you still occasionally come across a term that stops you in your tracks. Especially if this term, as is often the case, is written in English but in, for example, a German company report. You might understand the English word, but you need to work out what the original German author meant by it, and that could be something completely different! Research and context are the keys to solving the mystery.

This article by Joe Miller on BBC News takes a lighthearted look at some of the current jargon and tries to decipher it.