What’s the difference between “ashamed” and “embarrassed”?

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Jul 27, 2011 12:54
I looked these words up in a dictionary for non-native speakers of English and it said at the beginning of the entry, which is kind of a mini column, about how to use them properly:
ashamed: ashamed of yourself, what you have done etc
embarrassed: embarrassed in a social situation

I was surprised that I could not understand the difference at all from this description, though such a mini column must usually provides a quick and clear answer. It continues:
ashamed: feeling embarrassed or guilty because something you have done or said has made people lose respect for you
embarrassed: feeling uncomfortable in a social situation, especially when you have said or done something that makes you seem stupid

I still can't understand the difference very well. I think the reason why I cannot is that in Japanese, the feelings of being embarrassed and ashamed often overlap each other.

For example, there is a famous proverb in Japanese, 聞くは一時の恥、聞かぬは一生の恥. (There are some variants.) Tanaka Corpus translated it into “Nothing is lost for asking”. A member of lang-8 translated it into:
Asking is temporary embarrassment / shame, not asking is a lifetime of embarrassment / shame.

I do not know which is better, embarrassment or shame. If you put yourself in the English speakers’ place, embarrassment is likely to be closer. If you put yourself in the Japanese one, shame is likely to be closer. What would you think?