Untranslatables

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Iori_Yagami
Posts: 606
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:37 pm UTC

Untranslatables

Postby Iori_Yagami » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:34 pm UTC

You know them very well - words, for which it is almost impossible to find a match in another language. Sometimes there exists a match, but it matches something different better and you don't want to confuse the listener/reader by choosing it. Sometimes there is one word in your language and multiple translations for it in another language, all with significant semantic differences. Sometimes it is another way - different words are translated with one, and it does not carry enough semantics for your intended communication purpose. Often you just transliterate the word and give a long explanation for it, thus drawing attention to it.
Many times it is caused by cultural differences - some nations just don't have the thing, practice, or mental concept which is natural and even mundane for other nations.
It is both interesting and painfully annoying. Interesting in learning cultures, painful in communicating something simple yet horribly untranslatable.
Right now my memory doesn't give me many examples, but you all surely will help it.
One example - word 'подъезд' in Russian. It is actually an easy concept - the set of all flats in a block of flats accessible from a single entrance; it includes all flats on all floors. Flat addressing scheme would be something like : _untranslatable_ Nr. 3, floor Nr 2, flat Nr. 2. In fact, noone uses it (I just invented it), and flats are usually numbered through - so a block has flats from 1 to 80 if there are 4 _untranslatable_, 5 floors, and 4 flats on a single staircase plate. I hope I did not confuse anyone. :mrgreen:
They cannot defend themselves; they cannot run away. INSANITY is their only way of escape.

User avatar
Velifer
Posts: 1132
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2007 4:05 pm UTC
Location: 40ºN, 83ºW

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Velifer » Fri Mar 28, 2008 8:02 pm UTC

Quite.
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx

VPeric
Posts: 43
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:33 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby VPeric » Fri Mar 28, 2008 8:18 pm UTC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_kinship

Scroll down to the in-laws bit.

Silas
Posts: 1091
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 9:08 pm UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Silas » Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:18 pm UTC

Oh, fun, your sister-in-law (wife's sister) is your "swastika"

But as for the подъезд (if your explanation is correct- it's predictably hard to verify with a dictionary), it's more a feature of architecture than of language: the зоны of the main tower at MGU simply wouldn't exist in, say, an American university building- where something similar exists, we generally talk about two (different) buildings that share a wall (students at UVa will recognize Old and New Cabell Hall as an example; William and Mary has the Bryan complex, AU in Washington has Letts-Anderson).

So are подъезды mutually inaccessible, or is it a question of which main entrance leads to which? If one main entrance leads to two sub-entrances, are there three подъезды (one that contains the other two) or just the two?
Felstaff wrote:Serves you goddamned right. I hope you're happy, Cake Ruiner

qklilx
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:45 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby qklilx » Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:29 am UTC

The Korean word 아이구. It's an emotional word that can be used to express distress, stress, surprise, pain, happiness, etc. There is a variant 아이고 that I'm not too keen on since it's uncommon, but from what I've heard it seems to have more of a surprised implication.

User avatar
Number3Pencils
The Torment of Existence Weighed against the Horror of Nonbeing
Posts: 516
Joined: Sat Sep 01, 2007 6:27 am UTC
Location: Beyond reason, then take a left
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Number3Pencils » Sun Mar 30, 2008 12:09 am UTC

I also like the Russian particles "ved' " (ведь) and "zhe" (же). Ведь means something like "after all", but it isn't as powerful - it means I guess that you're telling someone something they should already know, but they seem to have forgotten. Же makes a statement more emphatic. I especially like же because you can shorten it to just the single-letter, consonant word "ж". A few days after I learned ведь, I wrote it in something I was writing (in English) in my journal, because it fit and I couldn't say it in English.
Image
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
niteice
Posts: 186
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 4:17 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby niteice » Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:45 am UTC

I find myself wanting to use the word "cualquier" often in English. It would actually sound kinda cool translated - "whatwant" sounds pretty neat in place of "anything", but I have no idea why. :D
GENERATION 4294967292: The first time you see this, copy it into your sig on any forum, negate the generation, and convert it to a 32-bit unsigned integer. Social experiment.

User avatar
Iori_Yagami
Posts: 606
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:37 pm UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Iori_Yagami » Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:05 am UTC

@Silas
I am not an architect, but I believe the term подъезд applies only to standard, bland public housing buildings, which look little more than rectangular parallelepipeds (aka matchboxes). As for complicated cases, there are surely many other different terms as корпус (corps?) or крыло (wing?), пристройка (extension?)...
Anyway, to access flats, say, 1-20 you'd enter 1st _untranslatable_, to access 21-40 - 2nd, and so on - they are completely isolated.

@Serbian language
Well, in Russian there are also a lot of words for brother's wife or sister's husband, or the like. However, having such a system of ancestor naming... Serbian totally owns anyone with it... :shock:
They cannot defend themselves; they cannot run away. INSANITY is their only way of escape.

User avatar
zomgmouse
Posts: 167
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:44 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia.
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zomgmouse » Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:56 am UTC

I read Hedda Gabler, and one of the footnotes was on the Norwegian word 'fogd', which apparently has no equivalent in English, and the closest was 'District Magistrate'.

Also, the 'lycée' in French is not altogether easily translated into English, and is usually referred to as a secondary school.

In Russian, I can also think of "ну" and "мол". Ну is almost 'well' and мол is slightly like 'like'.

"Ну мол, ведь я же в подъезде" would be hell for translators!
"Alf Todd," said Ukridge, soaring to an impressive burst of imagery, "has about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild cat's left ear with a red-hot needle." P.G. Wodehouse

VPeric
Posts: 43
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:33 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby VPeric » Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:09 pm UTC

zomgmouse wrote:Also, the 'lycée' in French is not altogether easily translated into English, and is usually referred to as a secondary school.


Lyceum? Apparently, that's an "upper secondary school" in France (or at least, that's what Wikipedia says).

hnooch
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:55 pm UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby hnooch » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:00 am UTC

Well, Quine argues in Word and Object that most words in a language are untranslatable, especially between languages that don't share a common linguistic or cultural heritage. You might think you have a good translation, and for lots of common words you will — e.g. "rock," "water," "sun" — but for more complicated words (words that are not observables), the interconnecting associations and connotations present in the language ensure that no translation is exact.

User avatar
Teh Russians
Posts: 104
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2007 7:07 pm UTC
Location: Boston

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Teh Russians » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:17 am UTC

zomgmouse wrote:
In Russian, I can also think of "ну" and "мол". Ну is almost 'well' and мол is slightly like 'like'.

"Ну мол, ведь я же в подъезде" would be hell for translators!


"ну" = so
"мол" =! like, the only similarity is it is often said too often. It is only used when talking about something someone else has said, and it emphasizes the fact that you are quoting somebody.
Confucius wrote:Sit by the river long enough, and the bodies of your enemies will float by.

Image

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Robin S » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:08 am UTC

VPeric wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_kinship

Scroll down to the in-laws bit.
I saw that and thought "why couldn't they have listed male ancestors before female ones, so the translation list was completely concave"?

Also, "brat" is their word for brother. Excellent.
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

User avatar
Interactive Civilian
Posts: 468
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 7:53 am UTC
Location: Bangkok, Krung Thep, Thailand
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Interactive Civilian » Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:19 am UTC

To throw another language into the mix:

元気 - げんき - genki (Japanese)

This word really doesn't translate to English well at all, IMO. It is often translated into the "How are you?"-"I'm fine" exchange (元気ですか?元気です。[genki desu ka? genki desu.]), but that is not very accurate as it also has other meanings. The characters that make up the word roughly translate to "origin, base, source, etc." and "spirit, heart, essence, etc." I guess "healthy" and "energetic" are the nearest English equivalents, but those don't seem to quite capture it well.

It's a very common word in Japan, and it is probably one of the first that Japanese learners pick up (as the "how are you?" greeting) even though it takes a good bit of study and practice to get the knack of its uses.

Japanese is full of untranslatables, including some very commonly used expressions:

すみません(sumimasen) - often used for "excuse me" though the literal translation is "does not cease"
お疲れさま(o-tsukare-sama) - said at the end of work or after completing some project or other similar times. No real direct translation, but the kanji used means "tired". (this is a weird one for me because I understand it perfectly well in Japanese, but cannot think of a good way to explain it)
いただきます(itadakimasu) - said at the beginning of a meal. literally translates to a VERY formal, polite way of saying "I will partake". Often translated to "bon appetite", though I don't think this is accurate,or at least, I feel that めしあがれ(meshi-agare) is closer to bon appetite. However my understanding of "bon appetite" may be flawed. Is that only said by the person serving the food? Or do the people about to eat also say it?
ごちそうさま(go-chisou-sama) - said at the end of a meal. No real translation (well, I suppose it could translate to "o honorable treat).

There are many, many more. Japanese is such a different language from English that sometimes I get stuck when speaking English (despite it being my native language) because a thought wants to come out that is easier or better to express in Japanese.
I (x2+y2-1)3-x2y3=0 science.

Mer
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:25 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Mer » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:55 am UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:However my understanding of "bon appetite" may be flawed. Is that only said by the person serving the food? Or do the people about to eat also say it?


'Bon appetit' is said by the server/host. Its English equivalent would be something like 'Enjoy!' (another untranslatable :D) although its literal translation is of course 'good appetite'... you can see where they're coming from there, I think. On the Japanese front, 'genki' is a great example of a purely Japanese phrase, but there seems to be a lot of them. 'Shikata ga nai' (and its more polite variants) is another good one that reflects the Japanese mindset: literally it means 'there is no way to do it' but the general sense is 'it can't be helped'. It's a phrase to be used when something is beyond your power to fix or affect and you hear them say it a lot. Most polite set phrases in that language don't seem to translate well into English either. An interesting thing I've noticed in my various studies of Japanese, French and Mandarin is that they all have two verbs covering the semantic range of 'to know'. My understanding is still kind of fuzzy even after many years of studying French but all three languages seem to share the same division of meanings: one word might be said to cover factual or technical knowledge (savoir in French, wakaru in Japanese, zhidao in Mandarin) and the other one is more about recognizance or familiarity with something (connaître, shiru, renshi). That doesn't really cover the full range of their usages but it's a tricky concept for an English speaker.

French has lots of great words that I wish existed in English, and some that have already been borrowed (much more recently than the 11th century, I mean). 'chic' for example, has no English translation. 'à la mode' is another term that doesn't translate, and hasn't yet been borrowed (that I'm aware of) in the sense that refers to things like fashion trends and not ice cream on pie. Mostly though, I wish English had a direct translation of the pronoun 'on', as in 'Qu'est-ce qu'on fait?' or 'On dit que les Américains sont tous gros'. It can replace just about any pronoun, anytime (in speech, mostly)! It might be my favourite word ever because I am a really lazy speaker. Let's all create a truly universal English pronoun.

Bonus: 'cheap' doesn't translate directly into French. The best translation is 'bon marché', which means something was a good buy.

User avatar
lowbart
Posts: 668
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 10:00 pm UTC
Location: northeastern USA
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby lowbart » Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:23 pm UTC

"Enjoy!" is untranslateable? It's just saying "I hope this meal is pleasing to you", basically.

"Cheap" is an interesting word, considering that it carries the implication that the low price implies a reduction in quality, which "inexpensive" doesn't.
...a fish called the Henamo grunter, named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder.
v1nsai wrote:Yes, I'm Linux, how can I help you ma'am?

User avatar
Owehn
Posts: 479
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:49 pm UTC
Location: Cambridge, UK

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Owehn » Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:48 pm UTC

lowbart wrote:"Enjoy!" is untranslateable? It's just saying "I hope this meal is pleasing to you", basically.


I think "Enjoy!" can be translated with relative ease, but you don't typically say "Enjoy!" when you're the one about to eat, which is the case for the Japanese expression.
[This space intentionally left blank.]

Mer
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:25 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Mer » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:16 pm UTC

lowbart wrote:"Enjoy!" is untranslateable? It's just saying "I hope this meal is pleasing to you", basically.

"Cheap" is an interesting word, considering that it carries the implication that the low price implies a reduction in quality, which "inexpensive" doesn't.


I was referring to 'bon appetit' as being the untranslatable... really what I meant was that you can't translate the word directly. There's an English equivalent but it doesn't have exactly the same meaning, just the same situational use. Hair-splitting. XD

Nice point about 'cheap'... since my vocabulary is not a kingly one, WordReference.com offers a translation of 'économique' for 'inexpensive'. Of course you can also say 'economical' in English to get the same sentiment across. Hooray for words, maybe I do want to be a lexicographer after all.

User avatar
Iori_Yagami
Posts: 606
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:37 pm UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Iori_Yagami » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:56 pm UTC

Teh Russians wrote:"ну" = so
"мол" =! like, the only similarity is it is often said too often. It is only used when talking about something someone else has said, and it emphasizes the fact that you are quoting somebody.

Well, so :) ... Should I add that 'ну' is a horrible filler word in the same vein that 'like', 'kinda', 'sorta', 'actually', 'justa' and is not considered good practice for all meaningful and educated communication? Also, 'мол' is clearly derived from archaic Russian 'молвить', 'молва' (to tell, a speech)? To be even more nerdy, I'd add that some languages (e.g. Latvian) have even a special grammatical tense for 's/he said that ....'.
They cannot defend themselves; they cannot run away. INSANITY is their only way of escape.

User avatar
zomgmouse
Posts: 167
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:44 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia.
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zomgmouse » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:40 am UTC

Ну is not always "so". It can be "well" and as an exclamation is probably "hey!" or something.
"Alf Todd," said Ukridge, soaring to an impressive burst of imagery, "has about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild cat's left ear with a red-hot needle." P.G. Wodehouse

EstLladon
Beat you to the park. From RUSSIA.
Posts: 483
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 10:23 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby EstLladon » Tue Apr 01, 2008 2:01 pm UTC

Iori_Yagami wrote:Well, so :) ... Should I add that 'ну' is a horrible filler word in the same vein that 'like', 'kinda', 'sorta', 'actually', 'justa' and is not considered good practice for all meaningful and educated communication?


Yes, you should. I once tried to fool some people into believing that I'm an english native speaker. Their english was not so good, so I could pass as a native speaker to them. But I kept saying "ну" between phrases and that's how they knew, that I was in fact russian...

And I'm yet to find a good word in russian to translate "awesome". All russian words that come to mind do not have the right ring to them.
From Russia with math.

zenten
Posts: 3799
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:42 am UTC
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zenten » Tue Apr 01, 2008 5:08 pm UTC

qklilx wrote:The Korean word 아이구. It's an emotional word that can be used to express distress, stress, surprise, pain, happiness, etc. There is a variant 아이고 that I'm not too keen on since it's uncommon, but from what I've heard it seems to have more of a surprised implication.


How is it different from "shock"?

And a lot of these examples seem like idioms, which seems like it should be a separate subject to me.

User avatar
Iori_Yagami
Posts: 606
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:37 pm UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Iori_Yagami » Wed Apr 02, 2008 5:34 pm UTC

EstLladon wrote:And I'm yet to find a good word in russian to translate "awesome". All russian words that come to mind do not have the right ring to them.


Like in 'XKCD is awesome'? :)
If my memory dictionary serves me right, then 'awe' is a positive shock, and awesome would be something as 'потрясающий' (shaking). It can be both used in positive and negative sense.
They cannot defend themselves; they cannot run away. INSANITY is their only way of escape.

zahlman
Posts: 638
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:15 pm UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zahlman » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:39 pm UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:すみません(sumimasen) - often used for "excuse me" though the literal translation is "does not cease"


Er, I thought the literal translation was more like "(implied: I) won't do it again". Which would then make much more sense.

Mer wrote:Mostly though, I wish English had a direct translation of the pronoun 'on', as in 'Qu'est-ce qu'on fait?' or 'On dit que les Américains sont tous gros'


Uh... try "one"? It's considered stuffy and formal, but it's otherwise a direct translation as near as I can figure.

Of course, trying to translate French grammatical structures into English directly will... well, it will leave you wondering what that is which the hell which that is. :)

qklilx wrote:The Korean word 아이구.


How is that pronounced?
Belial wrote:I once had a series of undocumented and nonstandardized subjective experiences that indicated that anecdotal data is biased and unreliable.

User avatar
steewi
Posts: 873
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2008 3:38 am UTC
Location: Tropical Nowhere

Re: Untranslatables

Postby steewi » Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:12 am UTC

zahlman wrote:
qklilx wrote:The Korean word 아이구.


How is that pronounced?


aiku

Mer
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:25 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Mer » Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:17 am UTC

zahlman wrote:Uh... try "one"? It's considered stuffy and formal, but it's otherwise a direct translation as near as I can figure.


In the senses where 'on' refers to a non-specific, singular entity, like with idioms for example, then yes, 'one' is often a reasonable translation. But it can also replace the pronouns for 'I', 'you' (singular and plural), 'he/she' and 'we', variously, and in such a phrase as 'Qu'est-ce qu'on fait ce soir?', 'one' is definitely not the translation I would pick. In the non-specific sense that refers more to society at large, we might even translate it as 'they'.

Are there any pronouns in English which are that semantically flexible? Nope. Some English speakers still have issues accepting 'they' as a non-gender-specific version of the third person singular (to which I say that they should just get over it already :D). Maybe a long, long time ago 'one' was a transliteration of 'on' in all these cases and its use has narrowed, or maybe the usage of 'on' has broadened, since many of its correct uses are only really correct in spoken French (to my second-language knowledge). Or maybe neither of those explanations is the correct one. I don't know. I haven't studied the subject in-depth. Yet?

I guess it's not to say that 'on' is untranslatable, since pronouns are often evident through context anyway, but it's definitely kind of a unique feature of French and can take a second-language learner a while to pick up the nuances of.

User avatar
ave_matthew
Posts: 177
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:59 am UTC
Location: ici, here, oota, aqui, m'inade, cxi tie

Re: Untranslatables

Postby ave_matthew » Thu Apr 03, 2008 2:43 am UTC

The usage of On has broadened, all the old grammars say that it = one, but here in Manitoba on n'utilise preque jamais nous, on préfère on (way too may on's). Alors : que fait-on = what are we doing . . . most of the time, it's pretty much context dependant.
Spoiler:
the french says: we never use nous we prefer on, so :


Also try translating "wood" out of context :) it could be a contraction of firewood
or copse?
is it fire wood, is it trees are there alot, is it being use to build something, all of these matter to translation.
Español
Spoiler:
leña - firewood, madera - wood as a material, bosque - wood as a group of trees

Français
Spoiler:
bois - group of trees/material possibly firewood.

This applies to alot of other words as well.
ave matthew, je m'appelle matthew, mi nomas matthew, me llamo matthew, I'm matthew.

GENERATION 22: The first time you see this, copy it into your sig on any forum and add 1 to the generation. Social experiment.

User avatar
Interactive Civilian
Posts: 468
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 7:53 am UTC
Location: Bangkok, Krung Thep, Thailand
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Interactive Civilian » Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:01 am UTC

zahlman wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:すみません(sumimasen) - often used for "excuse me" though the literal translation is "does not cease"


Er, I thought the literal translation was more like "(implied: I) won't do it again". Which would then make much more sense.

Though it is often written without the kanji, すみません is actually 済みません. The verb 済む means "to finish, to end, to be completed."

This actually explains a lot, because すみません does not only mean "excuse me" but can also be used as a "thank you." For example, it is perfectly natural to say すみません after someone lights your cigarette. You could translate it to "(my thanks) do not cease".

"Excuse me" = "(my shame/my apologies/etc.) do not cease". It makes sense considering Japanese culture and thinking style. It just doesn't translate directly very well. However, understanding the original meaning gives you a better grasp of what situations you can use the word in.

8)
I (x2+y2-1)3-x2y3=0 science.

EstLladon
Beat you to the park. From RUSSIA.
Posts: 483
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 10:23 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby EstLladon » Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:28 am UTC

Iori_Yagami wrote:If my memory dictionary serves me right, then 'awe' is a positive shock, and awesome would be something as 'потрясающий' (shaking). It can be both used in positive and negative sense.


Yeah, "потрясающий" is probably the best one, but still you can't do a lot with it. Try to translate "Time to hide in the CAVE OF AWESOME!". There is a lot you can do with english you cannot do with Russian and vice versa.
From Russia with math.

zenten
Posts: 3799
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:42 am UTC
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zenten » Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:51 pm UTC

EstLladon wrote:
Iori_Yagami wrote:If my memory dictionary serves me right, then 'awe' is a positive shock, and awesome would be something as 'потрясающий' (shaking). It can be both used in positive and negative sense.


Yeah, "потрясающий" is probably the best one, but still you can't do a lot with it. Try to translate "Time to hide in the CAVE OF AWESOME!". There is a lot you can do with english you cannot do with Russian and vice versa.


"Cave of Awesome" is not proper English though. What you're describing is an informal usage found among a certain sub section of geeks.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26820
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:32 pm UTC

zenten wrote:
EstLladon wrote:
Iori_Yagami wrote:If my memory dictionary serves me right, then 'awe' is a positive shock, and awesome would be something as 'потрясающий' (shaking). It can be both used in positive and negative sense.

Yeah, "потрясающий" is probably the best one, but still you can't do a lot with it. Try to translate "Time to hide in the CAVE OF AWESOME!". There is a lot you can do with english you cannot do with Russian and vice versa.

"Cave of Awesome" is not proper English though. What you're describing is an informal usage found among a certain sub section of geeks.

Fine, but surely "cave of awesomeness" is just as hard to translate?
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Engma
Posts: 41
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:51 pm UTC
Location: Urbana, IL

Re: Untranslatables

Postby Engma » Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:47 pm UTC

I love Sanskrit for finding screwy untranslatable words.

One of my favorites is "adrshtakama" (the 'r' is prounounced the r in "pretty"). It means "desire without seeing". It's a big thing in old Indian literature: two people fall in love without ever seeing each other, but hearing about each other's qualities and virtues. Nala and Damayanti were a couple like that (they were mentioned in the Mahabharata).

Another one is "akshapriya". This one can't be translated due to the grammar of compounds. By one method of dissolving compounds, it means "one who is favorite of the dice"...so one who is lucky in gambling. The other way means "one for whom dice is favorite"...which could have the meaning of "compulsive gambler" in certain situations.

Another one I found "naastika" is usually translated as "atheist", but that lacks the lovely implications of the word "na" means "not/non" and "asti" means "to be" or "existance" (it's the same particle in swastika).

So, literally, one who does not believe in <whatever scripture> is called "one who does not exist" or possibly "one not worthy of acknowledgement".
M: So I'm living in a movie right now

L: really? Too much LSD in your cheerios?

zenten
Posts: 3799
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:42 am UTC
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zenten » Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:34 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
zenten wrote:
EstLladon wrote:
Iori_Yagami wrote:If my memory dictionary serves me right, then 'awe' is a positive shock, and awesome would be something as 'потрясающий' (shaking). It can be both used in positive and negative sense.

Yeah, "потрясающий" is probably the best one, but still you can't do a lot with it. Try to translate "Time to hide in the CAVE OF AWESOME!". There is a lot you can do with english you cannot do with Russian and vice versa.

"Cave of Awesome" is not proper English though. What you're describing is an informal usage found among a certain sub section of geeks.

Fine, but surely "cave of awesomeness" is just as hard to translate?


Again, not a standard English word, but also an informal usage found among a certain sub section of geeks.

What you want is "Awesome Cave". Now that phrase can mean two things, one is more informal but is becoming archaic, and the other is more modern but is fairly informal (but still nothing like the geek usage people are talking about for the derived words). Either of those meanings can be easily translated, but there probably isn't another language that has one word for both, especially not in the same way.

Engma wrote:I love Sanskrit for finding screwy untranslatable words.

One of my favorites is "adrshtakama" (the 'r' is prounounced the r in "pretty"). It means "desire without seeing". It's a big thing in old Indian literature: two people fall in love without ever seeing each other, but hearing about each other's qualities and virtues. Nala and Damayanti were a couple like that (they were mentioned in the Mahabharata).


Yay, ancient word for cyberlove!

icdfeddie
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2008 4:04 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby icdfeddie » Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:48 am UTC

I've spent a long time teaching English as a second language, and if I've learnt one thing it's that very few words have exact translations and most don't even have decent ones. To really learn a new language you can't just substitute x word for y, you have to take on each new word and explore it's meaning through use. This means you have to discard all your existing notions of language and start from scratch, which as adults is basically impossible for us to do.

The best we can try for is to learn through substitution, and then once a basic level of communication has been achieved hope we learn word's true meanings through use. Once we leave early childhood, the brain basically doesn't have the capacity to properly learn something as hideously complex as a language. This is why non-native speakers struggle with grammar/accent even after decades of speaking the language.

EstLladon
Beat you to the park. From RUSSIA.
Posts: 483
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 10:23 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby EstLladon » Sun Apr 06, 2008 12:59 pm UTC

zenten wrote:Again, not a standard English word, but also an informal usage found among a certain sub section of geeks.


Why this should prevent translating? :)
From Russia with math.

icdfeddie
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2008 4:04 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby icdfeddie » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:15 am UTC

Cave Of Awesomeness


This is totally gonna be my new euphimism for the vagina.

zenten
Posts: 3799
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:42 am UTC
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zenten » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:43 pm UTC

EstLladon wrote:
zenten wrote:Again, not a standard English word, but also an informal usage found among a certain sub section of geeks.


Why this should prevent translating? :)


Well, it wouldn't, but you'd expect a translation to be just as informal, meaning you get to make up your own based on existing words and grammar in the destination language.

User avatar
invisiblechild
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:53 pm UTC
Location: In the pines, in the pines, where the sun don't ever shine
Contact:

Re: Untranslatables

Postby invisiblechild » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:12 pm UTC

I've been translating from english to bulgarian (which is somewhat close to russian but with considerably easier grammar) for quite some time now and from what I've encountered and what I've read as translation theory (if theory it could be called), I'll have to say there's not one single sentence that I could say is easily "translatable" from one language to another - what with having different source and target cultures and different audiences for the original and the translation texts.

however, what I find most disturbing is translating ad slogans. MD's "I'm loving it" is hell - it's peculiarity is of a grammatical nature (although they used to teach us back in high-school that verbs of cognition and emotion simply don't go with the progressive, lately I've noticed that that rule isn't observed too thoroughly by native speakers, which more or less renders it obsolete) and translating grammatical peculiarities between languages with grammar so fundamentally different is nightmarish!

zenten
Posts: 3799
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:42 am UTC
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Untranslatables

Postby zenten » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:14 pm UTC

invisiblechild wrote:however, what I find most disturbing is translating ad slogans. MD's "I'm loving it" is hell - it's peculiarity is of a grammatical nature (although they used to teach us back in high-school that verbs of cognition and emotion simply don't go with the progressive, lately I've noticed that that rule isn't observed too thoroughly by native speakers, which more or less renders it obsolete) and translating grammatical peculiarities between languages with grammar so fundamentally different is nightmarish!


How is that peculiar grammar? It just means "I at this moment love this object".

User avatar
4=5
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:02 am UTC

Re: Untranslatables

Postby 4=5 » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:13 am UTC

more of "the action I am performing is on it "loving""


Return to “Language/Linguistics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests