9 Cross-Cultural Words That Are Untranslatable into English

9 Cross-Cultural Words That Are Untranslatable into English
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Language is an essential part of everyday life, because it helps people communicate and inform others about feelings. What's more, it enhances cultural value systems and advances socio-economic interests.

With many translation tools available, it is easy to travel the world and side-step the language barrier. Despite this, linguistic untranslatability and cultural untranslatability must be taken into account. While most words can be translated into a different language, there are some cross-cultural words that cannot be explained by means of translation.

The cultural factors associated with the following words restrict translatability:

1. Spanish: Sobremesa - This word is related to Spanish eating customs. It is used to describe time spent around the table after eating meals with loved ones. It is taken from the word sobre, which means "on top," and de mesa, which can be translated to "desktop."

2. German: Waldeinsamkeit - When German people feel poetic, peaceful, and calm, they use the word waldeinsamkeit. This cross-cultural word describes woodland solitude.

3. Arabic: mo:ru:? - When a man reaches the pinnacle of manhood through displaying bravery and kindness, this Arabic word is used.

4. Swedish: Mångata - This word defines the roadlike reflection of the moon in water. The word can also be used to describe things that glimmer. When the word is split into two, the translations are moon and street.

5. Polish: Bakalie - In Poland, a mixture of dried nuts, fruit and candied citrus peel is added to ice cream, or used for baking. This is called bakalie.

6. Indonesian: Jayus - A jayus is someone who tells a joke so poorly that it ends up being funny anyway.

7. Russian: Pochemuchka - Do you know someone who asks too many questions? If so, you may refer to them as a pochemuchka.

8. Japanese: Komorebi - Komorebi is the word used to describe sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees.

9. Urdu: Goya - When a suspension of disbelief occurs through storytelling, people who speak the national language of Pakistan use the word goya.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.