Paj Lug-A Window Into Hmong Culture

A paj lug, best translated as a proverb or an idiom, is a form of Hmong expressions that uses metaphors and symbolism to express wisdom. While these phrases can be difficult to understand, especially without the help of a native Hmong speaker, they are nevertheless an extremely rich resource for someone hoping to hone their language skills. First, the rich language of a paj lug offers an extended vocabulary, particularly in regards to traditional language that might otherwise fall outside of the vernacular. Secondly, the use of metaphors offers an exciting challenge to those looking to increase their comprehension skills-reading through the multiple layers of interpretation can be challenging even for those fluent in the language! Lastly, each paj lug is deeply related to the cultural context of Hmong life. Thus, they represent a window into Hmong culture, teaching necessary background about Hmong values, traditions, and practices even as they help to improve language skills.

Txheej Txheem:

1.) Nyeem zaj paj lug; tom qab, txhais zaj paj lug hauv Askiv.
Translate the Paj Lug literally into English.

2.) Sau lub ntsiab tiag’ hauv lus Hmoob.
Explain the actual meaning of the paj lug in Hmong. 

3.) Xav thiab sau txog ib lub sijhawm thaum koj yuav siv zaj paj lug.
Think of a scenario when you might say the paj lug to someone; write down the scenario in Hmong!

Cov Paj Lug

1.) Ua ruam thiaj txawj zov tsev, tsab ntse thiaj tau ua qhev.

2.) Suab neeg nrov dua suab xob, lus phem ntsim dua kua txob.

3.) Tsis noj ces yuav tshaib plab, tsis yuav kwv yuav tij ces yuav poob dab.

4.) Ua qoob yeej muaj nroj, ua neeg nyob yeej khiav tsis dim txoj kev ploj.

5.) Kaum leej tsom, tsis cuag yus qhov muag pom.

Answer Key

`1. Translation: Act stupid and you’ll stay in the house, act like a know-it-all and you’ll be like a slave.

2. Translation: People’s voices are as loud as thunder, bad words as spicy as a chili pepper.

3. Translation: If you don’t eat you’ll become hungry, if you don’t have brothers (family) you’ll lose your soul.

4. Translation: Grow crops and have weeds, you can’t escape hardship in life.

5. Translation: Ten people seeing something are not worth seeing it with your own eyes.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.