El burro hablando de oreja.

The donkey talking of ear.

He speaks of others without recognizing the traits and flaws he speaks of within himself.

Silvia told me this was a common proverb that her close and extended family often said to one another or as a comment in regards to someone else. She took it as meaning that you must learn from your mistakes, although she admitted to having difficulty remembering the wording at first and struggling even more to recall its meaning. However, after thinking about it a little bit more, she added that it may have also referred to talking about others when you had a lot to answer for yourself. It seems to be a reminder to check yourself first before commenting or gossiping about other people. She also said that even though her family constantly reminded her to do this with this saying, she did not think they were the best examples of the proverb.

Admittedly, this was a completely new proverb for me that was especially difficult to decipher because it can be quite confusing and bizarre if translated and understood literally.  However, after asking a few of my family members and other Spanish speaking adults I know, they all seemed to agree that this challenging proverb was not only meant to challenge you intellectually as you struggle to understand its meaning, but also challenge you to be aware of your own behavior before you criticize others or speak critically of them. It also seems to challenge you not to judge others, gossip about them, or be critical of others more generally because you need to focus on yourself instead. This proverb makes a pointed observation that applies generally to so many; we are only too happy to focus on or emphasize others’ shortcomings or character flaws as we neglect our own and fail to see those very faults within ourselves. The proverb uses the image of a donkey, a traditionally dumb animal, speaking of or to an ear to highlight the folly of speaking about others and perhaps even listening to others blindly when the smartest thing to do is to turn towards you. This proverb prompts self examination.