January 26, 2009 8:11 PM   Subscribe

TranslationFilter: I need several phrases translated into Spanish, Thai, Burmese, and/or Karen. A little help from the Hive would be greatly appreciated.

A friend of mine teaches ESL and is trying to find translations of some quotes that are part of writing prompts in order to clarify them for the students.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." (Ghandi) -- Arabic
"My great concern is not whether you have failed but whether you are content with your failure." (Lincoln) -- Arabic
"The best advice is a good example" (Ossie Davie)-- Thai and/or Burmese and/or Karen
"A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for" (Grace Murray Hopper)-- Spanish
"The point is not to pay back kindness, but to pass it on." (Julia Alvarez) -- Spanish
"Actions speak louder than words." (An American proverb) -- Spanish

I realize that's a long list, but if anyone here feels comfortable contributing even one, it'd be greatly appreciated.
posted by Alterscape to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Actions speak louder than words."
I found about 50 possible translations online but the two native speakers next to me claimed the almost literal... "un hecho dice mas que mis palabras" is a common saying.
posted by nzydarkxj at 8:31 PM on January 26, 2009

"Un barco en puerto está seguro, pero los barcos no son construidos para eso" (G.M.H.)
"El propósito no es de repagar la bondad pero de pasársela a otros." (J.A.)
"Las acciones hablan más fuerte que las palabras" American proverb

In truth, if you know even one word from these quotes in another language you can find it by googling " + speaker's name". That's what I did.

Although, of course, you should be able to check for quality and you're pretty much hosed when it comes to non-Roman alphabets.

posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 8:33 PM on January 26, 2009

"The best advice is a good example" (Ossie Davie)-- Thai and/or Burmese and/or Karen
I can get Burmese and Karen, but it might take a few days. The people I know don't have a home computer, so they are not online every day.
posted by typewriter at 8:51 PM on January 26, 2009

I rather see these as closer to the quotes' spirit for two of the quotes in Spanish:

"Un barco en el puerto está a salvo, pero no es para eso para lo que los barcos se construyen." (GMH)
"El sentido no está en devolver una gentileza, sino en hacerla circular." (JA)
posted by Iosephus at 9:58 PM on January 26, 2009

"Actions speak louder than words."

"Las acciones hablan más fuerte que las palabras" is more literal, "Un hecho dice más que mil palabras" is the one I've heard spoken, it is literally "An action says more than a thousand words".

All the Spanish translations I've found for the other sound akward. IMO as a native speaker, the best one for Julia Alvarez quote is "El punto no es reciprocar la bondad, sino pasarsela a otros".
posted by dirty lies at 9:58 PM on January 26, 2009

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." (Ghandi) -- Arabic
Considering there isn't really a verb "to be" in Arabic (I guess يكون would come closest) this one might be problematic.

If these students are at a high enough level of English that they could intelligently write on these subjects, then in my opinion it would probably be counterproductive to give them translations. Instead, maybe rewriting the meanings in slightly simpler English or even having a class discussion about what the quotes might mean before moving on to a composition.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:17 PM on January 26, 2009

For stuff like this, you should check out It's an interesting site where you can get the free help of professional translators.
posted by mateuslee at 10:28 PM on January 26, 2009

I agree with Deathalicious: you would do far better to explain the quotes in English rather than dig up probably unreliable/inexact translations into languages you don't understand well enough to know what's wrong with them.
posted by languagehat at 8:31 AM on January 27, 2009

Here's the Thai:

"The best advice is a good example" (Ossie Davis)

คำสอนที่น่าเชื่อถือที่สุด คือการทำตนเป็นตัวอย่างที่ดี (ออสซี่ เดวิส)
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:28 PM on January 27, 2009

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