“It’s not what I meant”: Words that don’t translate to English

There are around 6,500 languages in the world and English is the second most spoken one with approximately 1.5 billion speakers. The number of people enrolling in English courses has only increased over the years reaching 1.5 billion English-language learners worldwide according to British Council member John Knagg.

However, how hard is it for English speakers to express themselves when they have a different first language?

One of the barriers they encounter is regarding words that do not translate to English. They often find themselves in situations where that perfect word from their native language would apply but it is not possible to find an equivalent term in English.

Such impossibility could have a large impact on how someone would interact with the English-speaking world.

Here are some examples of words that do not translate to English:

1.

  • Language: German
  • Word: Schadenfreude
  • Meaning: A feeling of satisfaction that arises from seeing or hearing the problems of other people.

2.

  • Language: Swedish
  • Word: Lagom
  • Meaning: It is related to moderation. The term means not too much or too little, but just enough. It commonly  refers to manners, when it comes to accepting your share.

3.

  • Language: Dutch
  • Word: Voorpret
  • Meaning: You’re planning a trip to South America and then you download some travel books to decide what to do when you arrive at the country you are flying to. The excitement you are feeling at that time is voorpret, which means you are having a great time by predicting an occasion.

 

 

If you have any words in your language that don’t translate to English, please, let us know.

 

 

About Betia Rodrigues 10 Articles
A Brazilian journalist living in Ireland. Hold a master's in Journalism and Media Communications from Griffith college. Passionate about writing, producing videos and languages.