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What Are the Most Difficult Words to Translate?

Translation and interpretation help overcoming the communication boundaries between people who speak different languages, but sometimes hiring a cheap translator might not be the best option especially when translating sensitive documents or when translating books that might contain some words that are very culture-specific, making them hard to translate, and would require a NAATI certified translator to ensure accurate and speedy translations.

Some languages have very specific words that have no counterpart in the language to be translated to, so a professional translator would then have to describe it in the target language, and if the translator is a native speaker, he should also be aware of the cultural variations that could impact the translation quality.

Let’s look at some of the most difficult words to translate:

rMamihlapinatapei
Language: Yagan (this is an indigenous language of a certain South American region)
Meaning: this is used to imply a speechless moment where two people look at each other in a certain way that signifies they would like to say or do something but for some reason they are hesitant or reluctant to go ahead.

Jayus
Language: Indonesioan
Meaning: a poorly put joke that is also unfunny, to the point where it pushes people to laugh – oddly enough!
From Indonesian, meaning a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.

Prozvonit
Language: Czech/Slovak
Meaning: an act of giving someone a missed call on purpose, not allowing the phone to ring more than once, signifying that you are requesting the other person to call you – so he pays for the call instead of you.

Kyoikumama
Language: Japanese
Meaning: a mother who is consistently pushing her kids towards a certain academic achievement without losing hope – ever!
Tartle
Language: Scottish
Meaning: that awkward moment you are hesitant to introduce someone because you can’t remember the name. Funnily it happens to all of us, we all TARTLE!

Iktsuarpok
Language: Inuit
Meaning: checking the outside of your place to see if there is anyone out there.

Cafuné
Language: Portuguese
Meaning: an emotional moment of running your fingers through someone’s hair.

Torschlusspanik
Language: German
Meaning: the actual word means “gate-closing panic”, however this is used to symbolise the actual fear that people start developing as they grow because of the decreasing opportunities in life, such as some women who are racing to get married or have kids.

Tingo
Language: Pascuense
Meaning: consistently borrowing your friend’s stuff from his house with the aim of taking it for good.

Ilunga
Language: Tshiluba
Meaning: this is a very specific word, as it means a person who is willing to forgive a first-time offense, to bear it the second time, but to neither forgive nor tolerate a third offense.

Wabi-Sabi
Language: Japanese
Meaning: it’s more of a lifestyle where a person aims to find beauty in any imperfection and symbolises a high level of acceptance.

 

If you have any document you would like to translate or a novel that contains very difficult words, our team of NAATI-accredited translators at Speak Your Language will do the job. We go above and beyond to provide express translation services across Australia.