Lost In Translation…No, really!

Not all languages are created equally! In fact, in many cultures words exist to describe places, food, actions, etc. which we may not be able to uniformly define. The meaning behind these words isn’t always exact and translations don’t necessarily span the many languages we speak. The relationship between words and their meaning is really fascinating. Linguists have attempted to deconstruct it and figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to or how one culture may have a word for something and another doesn’t. Take a look at some of these examples below.

  • Waldeinsamkeit (German): the feeling of being alone in the woods
  • Cualacino (Italian): the mark left on the table by a cold glass
  • Iktsuarpok (inuit): the feeling of anticipation that lead you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming
  • Komorebi (Japanese): sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees
  • Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions
  • Sobremesa (Spanish): the time spent after lunch or dinner talking to the people you share the meal with
  • Jayus (Indonesia): a joke told so poorly and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh
  • Panapo’o (Hawaiian): the act of scratching your head in order to help you remember something you have forgotten
  • Depaysement (French): the feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country
  • Goya (Urdu): the transporting suspension of disbelief that can occur (ie in good storytelling)
  • Mangata (Swedish): the roadlike reflection of the moon on the water

Have you ever travelled and come across a word or place that you struggled to define or translate or put into proper meaning in your own native language?


1 Response to "Lost In Translation…No, really!"

  1. There is tons of material avaliable on language learning techniques. The field is known as second language acquisition. It is possible to do experiments in this field, but they tend to be very time-consuming and difficult to set up. One idea would be to do a survey of people on their experiences learning foreign languages.

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