business recognition

Lost in Translation – 50 words that you won’t find in the English Language – but you wish you could!


From the Norwegian word ‘Forelsket’ (the feeling of falling in love) to the German word ‘Schadenfreude’ (the feeling of pleasure when one sees another suffer misfortune), there are hundreds of words which simply do not contain an equivalent word in the English language.

In our increasingly globalized world, it often surprises us how many words exist that do not carry a singular equivalent word in English.

During business meetings and professional settings, this could even pose a problem. If your boss refers to you as a ‘Luftmensch’ (a bit of a dreamer) during a conference call, this could be reason to worry.

Similarly, if you’re offered a ‘Tretar’ (the third refill of coffee) during a business meeting in Sweden – you should probably think about asking for decaf.

Perhaps while travelling to a visit one of your important French clients, you might feel ‘depaysement’ (the feeling of being a foreigner in a different country).

However, if you’re travelling with colleagues to one of your offices in Germany, you may feel that you need some ‘waldeinsamkeit’ (the enjoyable feeling of solitude and being connected to nature), in which case maybe it’s time for a walk in the park.

How to avoid getting lost in translation

Business translation can be a bit of a minefield, especially when you take dialect and colloquialisms into account, much like the untranslatable words detailed above.

This is where a process called transcreation (or creative translation) becomes useful. Transcreation is more than simply translating like-for-like words, it’s the process of re-working the original text so that it resonates with the intended audience.

For matters relating to business, this can be extremely useful when it comes to official documentation like employee handbooks or marketing communications where it is crucial for the information to be correctly understood by the target audience.

This infographic created by details the top 50 untranslatable words and their meanings.  




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