Some people strongly believe that knowledge of two languages is enough for a person to be a translator; that it is easy to take a word or phrase and convert it to another language! We wish everything would be so simple. The history of translation proves that it is much more of a challenge than that. Sometimes a word is simply untranslatable in a target language. All translators can do in this case is give a descriptive translation that attempts to convey the meaning of the original text.
Here is a list of some untranslatable words which always puzzle even the most experienced language professionals:
- Tingo (Pascuense) – to gradually steal all of the possessions out of a neighbour’s house by borrowing and not returning. I am pretty sure that all of us can find at home some things we have ‘tingo’ed from our friends or neighbours!
- What can be more romantic than waking up early in the morning with the purpose of going outside to hear the birds’ sing? Looks like it is a very common activity in Sweden as they have a corresponding word: Gökotta.
- Sometimes I am desperately looking for a word that means: a face badly in need of fist. Guess what! Germans actually have this word: Backpfeifengesicht.
- Maybe in your neighbourhood there lives a very interesting lady, usually old and lonely, and her biggest passion in life is to ‘collect’ cats. Italians call such ladies gattara.
- Do you know this wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but both don’t want to start? Everybody knows it. In the Yagan language there is a beautiful word that describes this look: mamihlapinatapei.
As you see, this is just a tiny list of words that I found especially interesting. Every language contains such words which cannot be easily translated into other languages. Explore your own language for these unique words!
At LingoStar, we work with professional translators all over the world who can translate any text without losing its original meaning and cultural effect. We provide translation services in over 100 languages. Call us today at 604-629-8420 or send us an email at email@example.com for more information!