6 Vietnamese Useful Idioms & Proverbs

6 Vietnamese Useful Idioms & Proverbs

Vietnamese useful idioms are plentiful, each carrying profound meanings, lessons about human conduct, or life experiences passed down by our ancestors. Let’s explore 6 Vietnamese useful idioms & proverbs together with VLS!

Có công mài sắt, có ngày nên kim

“Sắt” (iron) is one of the most common types of metal. Since ancient times, humans have known how to use iron to create rudimentary tools such as hoes, shovels, arrows, etc.

“Kim” (A needle)Co is a very small object with a sharp end and a small hole at the other end for threading. Needles are commonly used for sewing clothes.

“Công” means “effort” or “work”. “Mài” in English is “to grind” or “to sharpen”.

“Có công mài sắt, có ngày nên kim” means that if you work hard to grind a piece of iron, eventually it will wear down and become a tiny needle. In the past, before modern machinery, our ancestors had to sharpen and forge raw iron over many days and months to create a needle.

Grinding iron teaches people patience. To make small needles, besides skill and care, the craftsman needs to exert a lot of effort grinding iron. They strive tirelessly to create a product that can be used for sewing. Therefore, to achieve the desired results, you also need to learn perseverance, patience to overcome all difficulties. By being diligent and striving, everything will be accomplished in the best possible way.

Đi một ngày đàng, học một sàng khôn

“Đi” signifies interaction with reality, engaging with the social environment. ‘Đàng’ here means ‘path’ or ‘a day of traveling’, understood as a short period to explore and experience the outside world.

“Học” means accumulating knowledge, assimilating understanding from society into one’s inner self.

“Sàng khôn” carries a very special and profound meaning. Also a farming tool, unlike “sàng”, ‘nia’ (winnowing basket), ‘nong’ (trough), or ‘thúng’ (basket) which, despite having various functions (drying, storing), do not have the function of eliminating unwanted elements and selecting what is needed (sàng).

It turns out that the filtering function (sàng lọc) is the key to the proverb. “Đi một ngày đàng” where we can gather countless experiences. Among them, not everything is true or good. Therefore, we must know how to filter, select what is good and right. This depends a lot on our observation, contemplation, reflection, and thinking. Thanks to this, our knowledge, literary resources become richer, more abundant, and profound. Conversely, if we do not bother to filter, we will only collect a basket which is full of confusion, right and wrong. Sooner or later, it will lead us to misconceptions and mistakes.

Ăn quả nhớ kẻ trồng cây

This is one of Vietnamese useful idioms borrows the imagery of ‘eating fruit’ and ‘the one who plants trees’, intending to convey that when enjoying the fragrant flowers and sweet fruits, one should remember the person who planted and cared for them.

Some Vietnamese useful idioms & proverbs express the same meaning:

  • Uống nước nhớ nguồn
  • Công cha như núi Thái Sơn/ Nghĩa mẹ như nước trong nguồn chảy ra/ Một lòng thờ mẹ kính cha / Cho tròn chữ hiếu mới là đạo con.

6 Vietnamese Useful Idioms & Proverbs

Gừng càng già càng cay (With age comes wisdom)

Derived from the physical nature of ginger, ‘the older, the spicier,’ this proverb extends its meaning further when relating to a person’s life. A person is like ginger, growing older day by day, hence surely accumulating more life experiences, becoming stronger and more steadfast having gone through life’s ups and downs. Consequently, they become wiser and more astute, akin to ginger becoming ‘spicier’ over time.

Múa rìu qua mắt thợ

“Múa rìu qua mắt thợ” means “to expose one’s clumsiness or incompetence in front of those who are more knowledgeable and skilled.”

When referring to others, this proverb mocks those who overestimate their abilities, boastfully showing off in front of talented individuals, revealing their immaturity and naivety. For example: “Trước Maradona mà anh chàng đá bóng nghiệp dư cứ muốn trổ tài sút phạt. Đúng là múa rìu qua mắt thợ.” (In front of Maradona, the amateur football player insisted on showcasing his free-kick skills. That’s truly ‘múa rìu qua mắt thợ’.”

When talking about oneself, this proverb is used to express modesty and humility. For instance: “Bác thử xem giúp em bài thơ này nhé. Ồ, em biết thế này chẳng khác nào múa rìu qua mắt thợ trước một thi sĩ tài ba như bác. Nhưng dù sao cũng là tấm lòng của em mà!“. (Uncle, could you please review this poem for me? Oh, I know it’s like “múa rìu qua mắt thợ” in front of a talented poet like you. But still, it’s from my heart!”

Có mới nới cũ

The proverb “Có mới nới cũ” refers to people who are quick to change their feelings, lack loyalty, and betray others, as they prioritize new things and disregard the old.

“Nới” means “to neglect” or “to distance oneself”. Once something new comes along, there’s no more attachment to the old. “Có mới nới cũ” can be used to indicate distancing oneself from both people and things.

Above are 6 Vietnamese useful idioms and proverbs commonly applied in the daily life of Vietnamese people. We hope this article is helpful for you in learning Vietnamese!

27/03/2024

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