English Language; Drama & Speech; Social Etiquette. Est. 1986, Hong Kong

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04 November 2016

Untranslatable Words Can Expand Our Imagination

The world’s languages have vastly different ways of describing emotions and situations, so when they are rendered into a foreign tongue, they could be “lost in translation”. However, investigating how people express things in another language not only expands our vocabulary, but our imagination as well, even if translation is difficult.

Let’s look at some of the following examples:

Komorebi is Japanese for “the sort of scattered dappled light effect that happens when sunlight shines in through trees”.

Rire dans sa barbe is a French expression meaning “to laugh in your beard quietly while thinking about something that happened in the past”.

Fernweh is German for “longing for a place you’ve never been to”.

Waldeinsamkeit is another German word meaning “the feeling of being alone in the woods”.

Utepils is Norwegian for “to sit outside on a sunny day enjoying a beer”.

Iktsuarpok is an Inuit (Eskimo) word meaning “the frustration of waiting for someone to turn up”.

These words seem rather poetic! Why not try to translate some difficult Chinese words into English as an exercise? As a fun exercise, go to an IKEA store and write down a number of names of their products. Then try to imagine what they mean just by the sound or appearance of the word (IKEA actually names its products after Scandinavian places, names, professions, and geographical features).

 

Fun Fact

This is the name of a town in Wales:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch

“St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the red cave”