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The phrase preaching to the choir is explained nicely in Wikitonary:

Verb

preach to the choir

(idiomatic) To speak as if to convince a person or group of something they already believe. quotations ▼

Usage notes

Often used to imply that a speaker is addressing the wrong audience or is deliberately addressing a compliant, non-challenging audience.

The first translation on YouDao translates it very literally:

给唱诗班传道

the second translation is completely wrong (你和唱诗班说吧) and the third is quite literal as well:

对唱诗班说教

While, seemingly, correct - the above translations could hardly express the nuances of addressing the wrong audience by trying to convince them of something they already believe in Chinese.

Any ideas for a good colloquial translation of "preaching to the choir"?


ed: 给和尚念经 -or- 念经给和尚听 are quite good alternatives!

  • also:preach to the converted 向皈依者布道 – user6065 Dec 15 '17 at 23:19
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I would say the Chinese 4 characters idom "班门弄斧" could be best for "preaching to the choir".

“班门弄斧" basically means "display one's slight skill before an expert." "班" here represents the best carpenter in China ancient history whose name is '鲁班', '弄斧' means display somebody's axe skill.

Another one comes into my mind is '关公面前耍大刀', '关公' was a big hero in China ancient history who can do '大刀broadsorwd' very well, and if you show your sword skill before him, that's really not a right thing.

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Most of the time, I would not say this in relation to an audience, but when you are telling me something I already know or believe to be true. "You are preaching to the choir. 向教徒传教." There is just the allegory, or comparison, of a priest talking to his already devout flock.

A bit like standing in the People's Congress and telling the delegates that Marxism is the best way forward. You are wasting your time and energy. They are already convinced.

徒劳无益: a futile endeavour
徒劳无功: work to no avail
劳而无功: work hard with little or no result
心劳日拙: get nothing for one's efforts

and as a waste of time and appearing foolish:

画蛇添足
布鼓雷门

如果你说的话让我生气,我不会回答“向教徒传教”而是“不要说话”(我常常听到有人这么说!)

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"Preaching to the choir" is a waste of effort.

Why is it a waste of effort?

Because it is unnecessary.

And why is it unnecessary?

It is unnecessary because people in a choir are believers already, to try to convince believers to believe is just an redundant act.

The core logic of "preaching to the choir" is "engage in redundant act" and the main extended meaning is "waste of time and energy"

"Engage in redundant act" in Chinese is "多此一舉"

Example:

Rallying your die-hard supporter for their votes, is like preaching to the choir

爭取死硬支持者的選票, 就像向詩歌班傳道一樣

Rallying your die-hard supporter for their votes, is really an redundant act

爭取死硬支持者的選票, 真的是多此一舉

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