In Lost in Translation, Ella Frances Sanders illustrates over 50 untranslatable words. This lovely book was a gift by my wonderful friends Vishy, who has impeccable taste in books.
Translation divides readers, connects communities, but always sparks debate. Sanders’ book is not an essay tackling issues of translation, but instead presents you with words that do not have a counterpart in English, words that take at least one sentence in English to capture their meaning. If you love words, you’ll be sure to treasure this book, I at least found great delight in discovering that other language communities found concepts that resonate with me so essential that they have a word for it. Why do other languages lack these words, why are they not loanwords?
If English is not your first language, you’ll probably find one in your mother tongue in this book. I admit, it was quite funny to see Kabelsalat on the list, which I think is a word every person needs that ever had to untangle headphones etc. But then I also found Waldeinsamkeit and was quite surprised, because i had never heard that word before. It first appeared in German romanticism, which makes sense I guess, and it just shows that you can still be surprised by your first language. There’s actually quite a number of German words in this book, so even if English already has a lot of German loanwords, there need to be more, mostly compound words 😀
The illustrations of the words are gorgeous, so I’m going to leave you with a few of my favorites. Let me know in the comments, which are your favorite untranslatable words!