professional translator

Working with untranslatable words

Most of us have used the expression “lost in translation” at one point or another to describe a misunderstanding. For language service companies, this is unacceptable. Generally, a translation services company believes there is always a way to translate an idea, even when there is no equivalent for a word in a different language.  A word that cannot be translated should be described or substituted with the appropriate interpretation of the meaning behind it. One common example is “Kummerspeck” (grief bacon), which a professional translator would simply describe as “emotional eating” or “emotion-related overeating.” Naturally, the best translation company will carefully hire a professional translator capable of navigating unique terminology without having to create a paragraph worth of explanation to translate documents. However, this becomes increasingly challenging when the language pairs are uncommon. The following list of words are known as “untranslatable” terminology by most professional translators:

  1. Merak

Is a Serbian word that describes a kind of bliss, it means that one feels connected with the universe due to the simplest of pleasures. In English, the expression “It’s the little things” would likely describe this feeling.

  1. Trepverter

A Yiddish word meaning a witty comeback that comes to mind after it’s too late to use.

  1. Tsundoku

Is a Japanese word that describes the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, typically putting it together with other unread books.

  1. Hanyauku

A Rukwangali or Kwangali word, which is a Bantu language spoken in Namibia and Angola. The word means the act of walking on tiptoes across warm sand.

  1. Dapjeongneo

Is a Korean word that describes someone who has already decided the answer they want to hear and asks a question, expecting to hear that answer.

Certainly, international languages have many unique terms given the change in climate, food and objects or places that might pertain to a specific region. Naturally, English is no exception. For a professional translator, English words such as, “insight,” “shallow,” “flabbergasted,” and “crush” (as in a desire or strong liking towards someone) are some of the terms found to be a challenge.  For a professional translator, these one of a kind expressions are a chance to showcase their creativity and linguistic sensitivity.

About Language Connections:

Language Connections is one of the top language service companies in the US. Over the last 30 years, we’ve focused on providing the best business translation services, interpreting services, as well as interpreter training and customized language training programs. In addition to top-tier corporate language training, we offer certified corporate interpreters and professional business translation services in 200+ languages. Our network includes linguists with backgrounds in all major industries. They’re ready to meet your needs, whether they’re for technical translation services, legal translation, government translation services, international development translation services, education translation services, life sciences translation, or something else. Reach out to us today for a free quote on our cost-efficient and timely translation services, interpreters, or other linguistic services.

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