Posts Tagged ‘english word’

Awesomely Untranslatable Words

Do you find yourself thinking in English very often? Have you ever said “I can express this better in French”? Have your friends ever looked down on you when you use a foreign word instead of your own language and you simply defend yourself “I cannot find the  of it”? I experience them all sometimes. I do not say that’s the way it should be. I am always a strong defender of protecting the integrity and the pureness of languages. However, when you know more than one language, you cannot help but use foreign words because you know you can express yourself better. In translation, such situations are more obvious. Sometimes you translate one English word as a whole sentence in your native language or vice-versa. It is not about the “richness” of a language but the culture and the history.   explains 20 untranslatable words from all over the world. Here, I paste the ones that I find interesting. You can always click on the link at the bottom for the rest. 


Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start”


Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh”


Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement”


Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.


Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.”


German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune. I guess “America’s Funniest Moments of Schadenfreude” just didn’t have the same ring to it.


Japanese – Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”


Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.” Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade.


The author adds a very beautiful final comment: “Understanding these words should be like eating the best slab of smoked barbequeued ribs: the enjoyment doesn’t come from knowing what the cook put in the sauce or the seasoning, but from the full experience that can only be created by time and emotion”

For the rest of the article, click here.

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