Difficult to Translate into English


Cafuné
Brazilian Portuguese – The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.

Dépaysement
French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.

Prozvonit
Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money.
In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.”

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Untranslatability


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.

An Example of a Latin Text

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.’

Nooteboom C. 1991. Het Volgende Verhaal [The Next Story] Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers (1991) p. 13