Untranslatables?

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.
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Slava
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Untranslatables?

Postby Slava » Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:50 pm

A list of twelve words commonly regarded as untranslatable into English, and translated. I wonder how many others are out there, and if they can be as easily debunked.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre ... anslations
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.

bnjtokyo

Re: Untranslatables?

Postby bnjtokyo » Wed Sep 03, 2014 1:46 am

Please refer to Geoffrey Pullum, "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax"
http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/EskimoHoax.pdf
On the other hand, a great many words cannot be "translated" from one language to another if "translate" means to substitute one or two or maybe three words (whatever a word is) in the target language for one word in the source language. If one were to "translate" "hagis" from Scots to English, one would essentially have to tell us how to make it and eat it. (A kind of Scottish sausage made by . . . , usually eaten (cooked in a certain way at a certain time of day), tasting . . . ."

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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Sep 04, 2014 1:01 am

Consider music translations such as easily accessible Christmas carols, opera librettos, lyrics translated from one language to another. To fit the music, an exact translation cannot be made to scan. I also have a paperback book of Spanish poetry, where the English translater brilliantly used prose, resulting in many cases in as beautiful expression as the poetry.

Silent night, holy night...
Stille nacht, heilige nacht...
Noche de paz, noche de amor...
The first two are very close, the Spanish is not, though it creates the mood.

Also omitted from the article are some German words I was told are untranslatable. IMHO, they are and they aren't: (correct the spelling, please) Weltenschaung, Weltenschmertz, Weltenschade. I have no clue why they all involve worldviews.
pl

bnjtokyo

Re: Untranslatables?

Postby bnjtokyo » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:54 am

Weltanschauung - Welt (world) + anschauung (assumption, opinion, outlook view)
Weltschmerz (sentimental pessimism, world weariness) - Welt (world) + schmerz (pain, ache, sorrow)
Weltenschade - Not a German word, and I can't figure out what word is intended.

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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:11 pm

I was probably trying to remember schadenfreude. Each can be defined, but after dealing with them in context repeatedly, one wants to use that word rather than the simpler definition because of the connotations it brings.
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Philip Hudson
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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:13 am

if it resembles any kind of mental complex or odd proclivity, the Germans have a word for it.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby brogine » Sat Feb 27, 2016 5:56 pm

Homer: Okay, then, Lisa. What's the opposite of schadenfreude?
Lisa: Sour grapes.
Homer: Man, those Germans have a word for everything!

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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:00 pm

If they don't, they will slam two or three words together and make one up!
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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Feb 28, 2016 11:14 pm

Without a doubt, the English language is the greatest artifact that God ever inspired man to create.

But it doesn't have the beauty of Spanish. I believe it was Coleridge who said, upon learning that mariposa was the Spanish word for butterfly, he felt obliged to learn the entire language. My Hispanic friends, including my Spanish language tutor, insist that Spanish will be spoken exclusively in heaven. So I am doing my best to learn it.

German, the mother of English has a word for it or they will manufacture one. Case in point: Fernsehapparat [far seeing apparatus] was the first German word for television. I think it has been simplified to TV now. In addition to that, the many German words for psychological states are just as much garbage as were the teachings of the famous Sigmund Freud whose name translates to the English phrase "Sick Man Fraud." :D I actually would enjoy German if it weren't for its horrible grammar and long sentences and words. Mark Twain said that German sentences were so long that they had to be taken in perspective, as one would observe a mountain.

I must say that these languages all beat French. Old Dr. Hebel, my German professor, was also great at linguistics. When he pronounced a French word, he would spit on the floor to clean the word out of his mouth and then mutter, "Bastard Latin." And of course he was right. French is the language of the "camp followers" of the Roman Legions.

Of course the above is just my humble opinion. :wink:
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Mar 01, 2016 2:20 am

But even Spanish is not always beautiful from the mouths of all its speakers. Castillian and Cuban seem to me the purist. Puerto Rican and Tex-Mex is execrable. It's gorgeous when the vowels are pronounced ah, ae, ee, oh, you. Can be horrible if pronounced flat.

French sounds nasal to me. Never understood why some call it the language of love. Neither do I get the rationale for the silent knights that make it impossible for me to tell what word they are saying. Since I know some Latin and Spanish, I can make out most written French, but not spoken.
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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby brogine » Tue Mar 01, 2016 6:19 pm

I believe Twain also said that Wagner is "better than it sounds". or I did until just now. Apparently, it's apocryphal.
But I'm quite sure that many years ago, I coined a German word for a firm that insures against the theft of pencil sharpeners:
Bleistiftspitzmaschinediebstahlversicherungsgesellschaft.

Philip Hudson
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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:01 pm

brogine:
I hadn't read this comment by Twain but I can believe he might have written it. To me Wagner is what you hear is what you get. And you don't get much to enjoy. No wonder Germany lost the war.

As for your self coined German word, I could actually understand it.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:40 am

Ich liebe Wagner!
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Re: Untranslatables?

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Mar 02, 2016 2:03 am

Wagner is music for the dark soul of the imagined Nordic super race. Ich mag es nicht Wagner.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.


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