Proverbial flashcards

About proverbial flashcards

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On the first screen you see a list of proverbs randomly chosen from our Top Twenty, each in a different language that has been randomly selected from the languages currently supported. Each one has a little flag to denote the place where it was originally spoken. Select any of these flags or proverbs.

The program assumes that the language of the proverb you have selected is your mother tongue, or at least one that you know very well. In language teachers' parlance, this is L1, or your Source Language.

The selected proverb in other languages

On the second screen you see the proverb in big type and below it the equivalent proverb in the other languages. Each of these also has the first three letters of the name of that language in your mother tongue. Select any of these.

The program assumes that the language of the proverb you have selected is the one you are studying or one that you are interested in. In language teachers' parlance, this is L2, or your Target Language.

On the third screen you see a list of up to twenty proverbs headed L2 proverbs with L1 translations.

Proverb list

You may change your choice of language at any time by clicking either of the blue buttons below the proVERBS title, the ones with the flags and language names on them. You can also reverse these two languages by clicking the toggle button to the right of them: Switch.

Select any proverb and the list will expand to show two or more items about it.

L1 translation, being an idiomatic translation.

Precise L1 translation, being a word-for-word translation. This is intended to enable you to see what each word means, with (in some languages) an indication of its grammatical function. It also gives you a feel for the syntax of the language, so that for a new one you can see whether (i) its linguistic typology is SVO (Subject-Verb-Object, as in English), SOV (as in German) or whatever (ii) the noun has genders, (iii) the adjective goes before or after the noun, etcetera.

Equivalent L1 proverb. It will be noticeable how frequently this is very similar to the idiomatic translation. This is because our common European Judeo-Christian heritage means that many proverbs originate in the Bible or from the influence of classical Greece and Rome, via the great 16th century collections of proverbs by Erasmus.

Meaning. Usually the meaning of the proverb in L2 will be obvious. However, this will not be so when one finds that the equivalent of the English "To carry coals to Newcastle" in German means "To take owls to Athens" or in Italian means "To take vases to Samos".

At the foot of the list is a Request notification button. Clicking this will bring up an e-mail that you can use to ask me, Tony Randall, to tell you when more proverbs are available. In English, Italian and Spanish I already have over a thousand on my database. I will need to prepare flashcards for these before releasing more.


Clicking the View flashcards button will show the Question side of a flashcard.

You see a word in L1 followed by an equals sign, a question mark and the L2 flag. Below it is the proverb with the word in the question replaced by [ ? ]. You seek to recall what the word is, then click the Answer button.

This flips the flashcard so that you can see the answer and the full proverb, with the question word replaced. Note that the word in the question is its uninflected or dictionary form, and usually not the same as its inflected form in the proverb.

Below the proverb are two big blue buttons, the second of which is either Next or To list, the latter appearing if it is the last flashcard associated with this proverb.

Below the two big blue buttons are small grey Grammar and Text buttons.

The content below the Grammar button is in the process of being revised.

Below the Text button you can be reminded of the L1 translation and of the equivalent L1 proverb that you first saw when clicking on the proverb in th proverb list.

I am considering replacing the text on the big blue buttons by Forgotten and Recalled and adding a login function so that the system can demonstrate your success in building your vocabulary. This would involve a major investment of time and money, But I will be happy to do so if sufficient of you e-mail me to tell me that you would like this.

Other navigation buttons

Most pages have a "header bar" which has a "home" button, enabling you to start-over: Home

In the footer of most pages, the About button takes you to an informational page about the app.