Lost in translation: Eight of our favourite untranslatables!
Last updated: March 23rd, 2014 by admin
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a document translation company, a concept we find particularly interesting is that of untranslatability. By this, we mean a single word in one language, for which no equivalent single word exists in another language. Everything is translatable, to a certain extent, but it’s these unique words with no precise one-to-one counterpart, that often give a fascinating insight into another country or culture, and their way of thinking.
A NAATI accredited translator is, of course trained and qualified to find the most effective and appropriate way of phrasing something when writing a translation, even if it isn’t necessarily word-for-word. Sometimes, though, the word itself is so distinctive and expressive, it’s almost a shame to spoil it by translating it! There are lots of these ‘untranslatable’ words in existence; here are a few of our favorites…
• Iktsuarpok (Inuit) “The feeling of anticipation leading you to go outside and check if anyone is coming.”
• Tartle (Scottish) “The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.”
• Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese) “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.”
• Tingo (Pascuense – Easter Island) “The act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”
• Ya’aburnee (Arabic) “A declaration of a person’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.”
• Gheegle (Filipino) “The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.”
• Pochemuchka(Russian) “A person who asks too many questions.”
• Waldeinsamkeit (German) “The feeling of being alone in the woods.”
This list is by no means definitive; it’s been no easy task narrowing it down to a just a small selection. Some of these are particularly suggestive of the values and unique way of living in certain cultures. If you want the very best standards in your translation, engage the services of a NAATI translator through a certified translation service, so you can be sure none of the meaning gets lost in translation.