English is the second most spoken language in the world, behind only Mandarin. It has given the world the works of William Shakespeare, the international language of business and a lot of odd idioms, such as “It’s raining cats and dogs!” to describe a particularly heavy rain shower, but it is far from perfect.
Despite the richness of the English language, shaped by the movement of people across Europe over centuries, from Romans to Saxons and even the Vikings, the English language can’t always express a certain feeling or emotion neatly with one word.
In the past, we’ve adopted loan words from other languages such as the German word schadenfreude, and this is a great solution. But there are many words from around the world which we could benefit from having an English translation for.
We’ve written in the past of the one surprising word that’s the same in every language, but in this article, we will look at interesting words we’re missing in English. In other words, we’ll reveal words from other languages which are untranslatable into English.
In German, Kummerspeck literally means “grief bacon”. Kummerspeck translates to something similar to ‘weight gained from emotional overeating’. We imagine, if there was an equivalent word in English, we would have seen an upsurge in its usage during the various periods of lockdown.
There’s no doubt many of us have piled on a bit of weight during the last 12 months. Perhaps a bit of grief bacon has helped to see us through this tough period of national struggle?
In Yiddish, “Shlimazl” means “someone who relentlessly experiences bad luck”. We’re trying to think of someone we could apply this to. There are certainly a few phrases in English that decry bad luck, including “that’s just my luck”, or, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all!”. Imagine simplifying that into one word!
Tatemae and Honne, Japan
These Japanese words refer to what one secretly feels in contrast to what they say they feel. It comes from the idea that there’s a difference between what you feel and what you can say you feel to fit in with society.
In English, no word conveys the same meaning. Perhaps a similar idea is in the way we say we “put on a mask” in public or at work, in order to spare the feelings of others.
In Portuguese, “Desenrascanco” means “Improvising a haphazard or thrown-together plan at the last minute.” Doing so can make you feel like a superhero, but in English, probably the closest we come includes phrases such as “winging it” or “flying by the seat of your pants”.
We could all use some Desenrascanco from time to time!
Coming a bit closer to home, “tartle” is a Scots word for that embarrassing social situation where you’re in a group of friends, introducing someone new to the group and suddenly realise in a panic that you have forgotten their name.
This is such a common faux pas that everyone has made a few times in their lives. Perhaps we should adopt “tartle” for the next time we awkwardly forget someone’s name?
Choosing the right word at the right time
It’s one thing having a large vocabulary and another, understanding the right context and the ideal time to use a particular word.
Our translators understand these nuances. That’s because they are native speakers, so whatever market you operate in overseas, or are looking to enter shortly, with a translator from Bubbles Translation Services, you can be sure of polished content fitting perfectly within context.
Say goodbye to clunky word choices, poor grammar, or any other mistakes associated with someone working in a language or within a subject area they’re not familiar with.
Take a look at our language translation services, for more information on the type of work we are experienced in and some of the illustrious and demanding brands and companies that have trusted us to deliver.