20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words From Around the World

Read Me: 20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world | Matador Network.

life and language

It’s been awhile, but CLASH is back in action for the spring semester. I thought we’d kick things off with an exploration of language, which is, in its purest manifestation, an expression of what it means to be human and to desire connection with one another.

I remember my first experience with new words in Spanish. As native English speakers, we’re used to one word meaning one thing, and to words that (usually) maintain quite literal meanings in context. In Spanish, language doesn’t work this way. My favorite of all Spanish words is “desahogarse.” In reality, it means to tell a friend about all your problems, to share your struggles and your triumphs with somebody else…an unburdening, if you will.

But literally? “Desahogarse” means ‘to undrown oneself.’ Because that’s really what language does. It allows us to invite other people into our existence, into the poignancy of pain and beauty that lets us know we are truly alive. When we share our stories, we start swimming toward the surface of our silent, solitary sea.

These words have been classified as untranslatable. Some are funny, some are sad. But all of them rang true for me in their emotional and situational sincerity. My guess is that they’ll ring true for you, too, regardless of where you’re from or what language you speak.

To me, that is the ultimate translation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

LEARN a new language

TRAVEL around the world

TALK to people from other countries

RESEARCH current events and crises

READ translations from other languages

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