The Most Difficult Words to Translate into English

Girl studying second language with teacherLanguage is a representation of one’s culture; words used across borders may mean something else if directly translated, it may even lose some or most of its meaning. This is when translators must focus on the idea rather than the actual word when they translate it into another language. However, even in such cases, there are certain words that are difficult to transfer into English.

Lingua Technologies International and other Singapore-based language translation experts list the following words that may be difficult or impossible to translate into English.

Hyeong (Korean word)

The best possible translation of this word into English is ‘brother’, but this is when cultural context comes into play in using words. There are different ways to use this based on who a person is addressing. A male talking to an older brother would use ‘hyeong’, but a girl would say ‘oppa’ instead. These words would also apply if the speaker were talking to someone older than them.

Tartle (Scottish word)

This is a Scottish word that is quite difficult to use, if you don’t know and understand the context. Scot’s use this to describe the hesitation they feel when they have to introduce people but somehow forgot their names.

Saudade (Portuguese word)

This Portuguese word describes a person’s feeling of longing, whether for a person or a something, they have loved for some time and lost. Experts agree the English word ‘nostalgia’ falls short of the actual feeling of saudade.

Basta (Filipino word)

The direct although imprecise translation of this Filipino word is ‘enough’. The English translation, however, doesn’t exactly cover the exact feelings and essence of it. This word can mean that a person doesn’t want to explain what they are saying or what they mean in further detail.

Re Nao (Chinese word)

This may mean bustling or lively in English, but these two words fall short of the feeling and meaning of this Chinese word. It connotes that there is something special about a place and its vibe allows people to have fun in a particular situation or place.

Words in other languages that you directly translate may lose its meaning; that’s why you should focus on the thought and ideas behind it along with its cultural context.

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