X 11 untranslatable words from other cultures

11 Essential Words That Can’t Be Translated into English [INFOGRAPHIC]

    “Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” –Anthony Burgess

If you are bilingual or multilingual, you know what it’s like to be able to express an exact feeling in one language, only to be lost for the same words in another. You know better than anyone that some thoughts just can’t be directly translated across cultures: in fact, it’s as if the world looks different from each culture’s point of view.

In Through the Language Glass, linguist Guy Deutscher explores why certain words exist in some languages but not in others. Below are 11 such words Deutsher covers in this book that explain feelings we all know distinctly, but that we cannot express concisely in English. Take notes, because these words could come in handy!

11. German: Waldeinsamkeit

 The feeling of being alone in the woods and feeling connected to nature. 

10. Italian: Culaccino

 The mark a cold glass leaves on a table 

9. Inuit: Iktsuarpok

 The feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming. This action demonstrates a bit of impatience 

8. Japanese: Komorebi

 Sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees 

7. Russian: Pochemuchka

 A person who asks a lot of questions – in fact, too many questions 

6. Spanish: Sobremesa

 Time spent after lunch or dinner talking with the people you shared the meal with (often while in food coma) 

5. Indonesian: Jayus

 A slang word for a joke so unfunny and told so poorly that you cannot help but laugh 

4. Hawaiian: Pana Poʻo

 The act of scratching your head in order to help you remember something you have forgotten 

3. French: Dépaysement

 The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country, or being away from your origin in general 

2. Urdu: Goya

 Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and five Indian states. This phrase represents the moment of transfixion when you forget your disbelief and allow fantasy to seem like reality 

1. Swedish: Mångata

 The road-like reflection of the moon on the water

Crop & Save