Lost in translation : Untranslatable words in English

Lost in translation : Untranslatable words in English

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Language is a bridge that connects the vast fields of human experiences. Yet, within this linguistic diversity, there are moments, feelings, and concepts that slip through the cracks, resisting to be translated. English language has a treasure trove of untranslatable words, each a window into a culture, a sensation, or a state of mind that words in other languages might struggle to capture. Join in on a journey of linguistic discovery as we dive into the captivating world of untranslatable words within the English language.
 
Serendipity: Imagine stumbling upon a hidden gem, a delightful discovery that was entirely unexpected. The word "serendipity" embodies these moments of accidental fortune, where fate seems to play a charming hand in our lives. Derived from an old Persian fairy tale, this word paints a vivid picture of unexpected joy.
 
Finding her lost childhood toy at the flea market was a stroke of serendipity that brought tears to her eyes.
 
Wanderlust: The urge to explore, to travel far and wide, is a universal sentiment. Yet, "wanderlust" captures this yearning with an elegance that few words can match. It carries visions of distant horizons, unknown territories, and the irresistible pull of the open road.
 
Her heart was constantly pulled in different directions, fueled by a deep sense of wanderlust that led her to explore every corner of the globe.
 
Saudade: Hailing from the Portuguese language, "saudade" is a sentiment of deep longing and nostalgia. It encapsulates a feeling of missing someone or something that might never return. It's a bittersweet ache that tugs at the heart, a word that resonates with those who have felt the passage of time acutely.
 
As she thought about her dead puppy, a wave of saudade washed over her, filled with memories of beautiful times.
 
Tsundoku: For book lovers, "tsundoku" is a term that might hit home. A blend of Japanese characters, it refers to the act of acquiring books and letting them pile up, unread. It's a gentle acknowledgment of the bibliophile's constant struggle between collecting and consuming.
 
His bookshelves were overflowing with unread novels, a testament to his lifelong struggle with tsundoku. 
 
Hiraeth: From the Welsh language comes "hiraeth," a word that speaks to a deep homesickness or a longing for a place that may never have existed. It's a word that paints images of misty landscapes and echoes of a distant past, capturing emotions that stretch beyond mere nostalgia.
 
Gazing at old photographs of her grandparents' home, she felt a deep sense of hiraeth for the place she had only heard stories about.
 
Dépaysement: In French, "dépaysement" paints the image of being in a foreign land, where everything feels new and different. It's that sensation of stepping out of your comfort zone, of embracing the unfamiliar and finding beauty in the exotic.
 
Stepping off the plane into a new country, she experienced a sense of dépaysement as the unfamiliar sights and sounds greeted her.
 
Tingo: From the Pukapukan language of the South Pacific, "tingo" refers to the act of gradually borrowing items from a friend's house until there's nothing left. A playful word that speaks about the trust and good fellowship between friends, as well as the inevitable entropy of borrowed belongings.
 
With every borrowed cup of sugar and borrowed DVD, their friendship deepened until they reached the point of tingo, leaving him with nothing left to lend.
 
Natsukashii: In Japanese, "natsukashii" is a word that evokes fond memories and nostalgia for a time that has passed. It's a tender acknowledgment of the fleeting nature of moments and the sweetness of reminiscence.
 
The old song playing on the radio brought back a rush of natsukashii, reminding him of school friendships and teenage dreams.
 
These untranslatable words are more than just linguistic curiosities; they offer a glimpse into culture, emotion, and the human experience. They remind us that language, despite its boundless capacity, sometimes falls short in capturing the nuances that shape our lives. As we explore these captivating terms, we bridge the gap between cultures, understanding that certain feelings are universal even if the words to describe them are not. So let's celebrate the untranslatable, for they are windows to the ineffable, the heart of what makes us human.
 
 
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Aug 11, 2023 | English,Vocabulary | No Comments

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