Language is a unique, beautiful thing that binds us together – but not all words mean the same thing across languages. Some concepts are so incredibly unique that they can’t be translated into any other language. This is where doesnottranslate.com comes in; this website references words that don’t translate to any other language, allowing us to explore beautiful concepts from different cultures around the world.
Take Mamihlapinatapai, for example – this word originates from Yaghan, a language spoken in part of South America by the Yaghan Indigenous people. Mamihlapinatapai means ‘two people looking at each other and each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start’. In English, there’s no single word to capture this meaningful sentiment – and it’s not just English that struggles with expression of meaning such as this one.
We can also look at Hiraeth: a Welsh term for homesickness for a home you cannot return to or that never was. It refers to an emotional longing for things from the past; something familiar and comforting yet unattainable. Ćutati is another example; it originates from Serbo-Croatian and means ‘to not speak, to keep silent’ – although it has the opposite connotation of talking, its meaning is far more complicated than just being quiet or mute.
Tanday is a Cebuano word meaning ‘the pillow you leg hug when you sleep’. While some may consider this concept silly or trivial, it expresses something so much more intimate than just physical comfort – tanday speaks of security and contentment on a much deeper level than we realise when talking about pillows!
The last concept we’ll look at is schöggeler from Swiss German culture – this refers to a person who has an extremely easy life, with nothing challenging them or forcing them out of their comfort zone. While some may envy this person’s life situation, schöggeler essentially speaks of someone who has no real purpose or direction in their life; their lack of difficulty brings boredom rather than joy or satisfaction.
It’s incredible how these unique terms found in various languages can add depth and complexity to our understanding of human emotion and experience – they give us insight into concepts that would otherwise remain unexplored if we were only speaking English! To learn more about these beautiful words from around the world (or even begin learning another language!), head over to Does Not Translate for resources on any language you want to learn about!