For the Love of Language

30 Untranslatable Words From Other Languages Illustrated By Anjana Iyer is a very interesting project.  You can find all 30 pictures on the website HERE.  No doubt that sometimes even the most gifted English speaker is at a loss for words.  And we all know that every once in awhile we have to describe something instead of just having a specific word.  Sometimes there just isn’t the right word.  But I have learned that other languages often have words that can fill in the gaps.  I knew German had a few of these words and so I wasn’t surprised with pictures like this one for Fernweh: feeling homesick for a place you have never been to.


I also thought some of the other entries were quite intriguing and could certainly be useful if we did have English equivalents.  Like this word from Rukwangali (a Bantu language in Namibia).  Hanyauku: the act of walking on tiptoes across warm sand.  This is a rather specific but fun word.


Although I am sure some of these might have equivalents in some other languages.  It seems to me that for English there is in usually no one word match.  Like this one in Italian we might describe it or call it water rings or coffee rings but in Italian it is just one word.  Culaccino:  the mark left on a table by a moist glass.


This next one I thought was interesting because I learned an equivalent word while living in Ghana.  I would say that it is an English word but not standard American English but instead Ghanaian English.  We did this all the time and it was called ‘flashing’.  The first time someone told me that they would ‘flash me later’ I was a little worried but then I learned that it meant something different than the flashing I was use to in standard American English.   The word would be unnecessary in the US because we pay for minutes whether we are receiving or making a call.   From Czech, Prozvonit: to call a mobile phone only to have it ring once so that the other person would call back allowing the caller not to spend any money on minutes.


The words are very interesting and I certainly wish we had some of these in English.  I love that this project from Anjana Iyer is a mix between language and art.  Take a look at the list HERE and let me know what word you wish had an English equivalent.

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