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words that just can't be translated

(17 Posts)
cookieMOMster Fri 08-Jun-07 23:55:07

Hi everyone, was just wondering all of you who are raising your kids bilingually have some words you like in one of the languages that just can't be translated? Example for the German word "Zicke" or Kölsch "Wutz"??

RuthChan Sat 09-Jun-07 07:22:29

Hi Cookie
My DH is Japanese and we live in Japan so hopefully DD will turn out bilingual. (still only 6 months old now though)
Japan and Britain are, obviously, culturally very different and that's reflected in the differences between the languages.
There are many words that can't be directly translated, or even really be explained clearly, because they describe concepts that doesn't exist in the other culture.
There's a word GENKI that describes someone as being cheerful, healthy, happy, doing fine etc.
It's a great word that has no English equivalent. Even non-bilingual foreigners over here end up saying things like; "I saw *** today. He was really genki."
I guess my DD will end up doing the same kind of thing!!
Are your DC bilingual? What do they do?

arfishy Sat 09-Jun-07 07:38:17

Hi Cookie,

I'm not raising DD bilingually (although Australian/UK English does need translation!) but we lived in Holland for a number of years and still use some Dutch words that have no direct translation - gezellig - which means a sort of cosy/comfortable atmosphere is probably the best one.

cookieMOMster Mon 11-Jun-07 23:18:47

Sorry, we had a very busy we so I did not even turn on my computer.
Ruth, my dd is raised bilingually German/English, and while she is rather talkative, she does not really use those words much yet (other than echoing me, of course ). Zicke is really a female goat but used for girls who are being a brat (if you can put it that way), there really is no equivalent in English. Wutz is dialect and means a messy little piglet.
arfishy, know some Dutch words, I really like the word "gezellig". They do have some nice ones, I think. "smakelig" (sp?) is another one....
Will be offline for about three weeks now , hope to find some more when I get back!!

BishyBarneyBee Mon 11-Jun-07 23:23:16


RuthChan Mon 11-Jun-07 23:49:05

Another Japanese word with no English equivalent is YOROSHIKU.
It is a very polite word that can be used in any situation to ask someone to help you, think about you, do something for you etc.
It is amazingly useful.

hugeheadofhair Wed 18-Jul-07 22:36:33

Cookiemomster, I think you mean 'smakelijk', which means tasty. But a better one is 'lekker', which also means tasty, but in Holland it is also used for things you can't eat. In Holland one can 'lekker slapen' which is literally tasty sleeping, but it means of course sleeping well/snug/nicely. I call my DSs often 'lekker ding' which is literally a tasty thing.

bettythebuilder Wed 18-Jul-07 22:53:33

When I was a girl, (living in Germany near the dutch border,) we had a family phrase "lekker 'til you scream" if something was particularly yummy

Gracelo Thu 19-Jul-07 06:42:51

I have real difficulties finding a German translation for "patronizing".
I suppose I could use "jovial" or "herablassend" but they don't quite have the same meaning.

Franzi Thu 19-Jul-07 13:48:28

"bemutternd", "bevormundend", "goennerhaft" ...

cookieMOMster Thu 19-Jul-07 22:51:39

yeah, just keep them coming! Sorry I haven't been online for so long, I was away for three weeks and then caught the flu and felt rotten. Sorry for the bad Dutch spelling.... We have "lecker" as well and it is sometimes used for things you cant't eat, but that's German. Does not work for tasty afaIk, does it? C-U, XX

DaddyJ Fri 27-Jul-07 17:17:58

Oh yes, 'patronising' is so good in English that we
just germanised it which is particularly useful in
conjunction with an expletive e.g. ' du patronisierender Saftsack'!

cookieMOMster Fri 27-Jul-07 23:19:40

Pruners Fri 27-Jul-07 23:29:02

Message withdrawn

Gracelo Sat 28-Jul-07 07:02:29

DaddyJ, that's great .

Goennerhaft is good (thanks Franzi) but it just doesn't express quite the same level of annoyance.
I read (and occassionally post on) a German parenting website and there is a regular poster who can really annoy me. I often shake my fists at the screen yelling "you patronizing bint". Nobody else there seems to react to her in the way I do.
The attitude towards being paronized seems to be a defining difference between Germans and Brits.

samanthar Mon 06-Aug-07 13:15:56

the word upset seems tricky to translate eg when the rabbit has died or you failed your driving test agian etc
in french boulversé, decu dont capture quiet captutre it
is it only french that dont have a word or is it the same in yr other langs on here
stamm as in tisch etc is also a tricky one
always found it good in german that there is mensch and mann saves a lot of silly changing of words in hymns for example

byroadorbyriver Wed 15-Aug-07 21:37:59

Mabrook is an arabic word, it means congratulations / good luck with your new thing. But you say it for everything when some one buys something or gets somthing from a new baby to buying a pare of shoes.

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