Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Untranslatable words

I only discovered Matador Network this morning, by virtue of a tweet from Lauren Beukes. I think this is probably the first time I've received a remote link (rather than an alert of new material) that I personally considered interesting from Twitter as well - I'm much more interested in people's original content; I know that I don't have time to keep abreast with the internet, and to try would lead to madness.

Anyway, this article is about untranslatable words. My Portuguese/Brazilian acquaintances will be pleased to know that saudades makes the list (I think this is probably the most promoted untranslatable word! - it almost seems to be a matter of pride for Portuguese speakers, in a way that d├ępaysement, say, simply isn't for French speakers). Welsh acquaintances will perhaps be sad that hiraeth doesn't make the list. There are 489 comments which I didn't read, but I suspect they are further suggested contributions.

Beyond the list, the point at the end of the article is a worthy one - that the hardest part of learning a language isn't learning the rules, but understanding - nay, grokking - the concepts involved -
developing an inner reflex that responds to words’ texture, not their translated “ingredients”. When you hear the word “criminal” you don’t think of “one who commits acts outside the law,” but rather the feeling and mental imagery that comes with that word.

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