‘Latin is the being, French the thought, Spanish the fire, Italian the air (I said ‘aether’ of course), Catalan the earth, and Portuguese the water.’
Untranslatability is a property of a text, or of any utterance, in one language, for which no equivalent text or utterance can be found in another language when translated.
Terms are, however, neither exclusively translatable nor exclusively untranslatable; rather, the degree of difficulty of translation depends on their nature, as well as on the translator’s knowledge of the languages in question.
Quite often, a text or utterance that is considered to be untranslatable is actually a so-called lacuna, or lexical gap. That is, there is no one-to-one equivalence between the word, expression or turn of phrase in the source language and another word, expression or turn of phrase in the target language. A translator can, however, resort to a number of translation procedures to compensate for this.
‘Never again shall there be a language like Latin, never again shall precision and beauty embrace in such unity. All our languages have too many words, take a look at all those bilingual publications, on the left the few and measured words, the sculptured sentences, on the right the full page, the traffic-jam, the queue of words, the unsightly dribble.’
‘I have my dinner while sitting on a kitchen stool at the kitchen table, opposite a reproduction of a scene painted in the sixth century before Christ (who has been so impertinent to seize the centuries before him as well) by Prithinos at the bottom of the bowl, Peleus wrestling Thetis.’