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11 beautifully illustrated foreign words that don’t translate to English

Untranslatable words from around the world illustrated by Ella Frances Sanders
Take a look at words from around the world that don’t have an English equivalent / Illustrations by Ella Frances Sanders

From Ella Frances Sanders come wonderful illustrations that present untranslatable words from around the world.

These brilliant images are worth sharing not only for World Book Day or International Translation Day.

The selection you will see below was first published by a writer and illustrator Ella Frances Sanders on Maptia collaborative platform for artists back in 2013 and are still available on her personal blog.

Did you know that there is a word in Urdu which describes the feeling of disbelief that can usually occur through good storytelling? Or a special Japanese word to describe the interplay between sunlight and leaves?

These 11 visuals are worth hanging on a wall. You can buy them in Ella Sanders’ web store. They are available in four sizes, and are printed on warm-toned Hahnemühle Bamboo 290 gsm paper.

Even better, you should take a look at the book Lost in Translation, which collect not 11 but over 50 unique, funny and poignant foreign words that have no direct English equivalent.

In this clever and beautifully rendered exploration of the subtleties of communication, you’ll find new ways to express yourself while getting lost in the artistry of imperfect translation.

Maybe I’m pochemuchka, but which of these words are you going to use? My favorites are “iktsuarpok” and “waldeinsamkeit.”

11 words with no direct English translation, visualized by Ella Frances Sanders


Urdu Goya - untranslatable words from around the world

Goya (Urdu) – the transporting suspension of disbelief that can occur, often through good storytelling.


Swedish Mångata - words with no direct English translation

Mångata (Swedish) – the road-like reflection that the moon creates on water.


Spanish Sobremesa - words untranslatable to English

Sobremesa (Spanish) – the time spent after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you have shared the meal with.


Russian Pochemuchka - beautifully visualized words untranslatable to English

Pochemuchka (Russian) – someone who asks a lot of questions.


Japanese Komorebi - words untranslatable to English visualized by Ella Frances Sanders

Komorebi (Japanese) – sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.


Italian Culaccino - foreign language words that cant be translated to English

Culaccino (Italian) – the mark left on a table by a cold glass.


Inuit Iktsuarpok - foreign words untranslatable to English

Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – a feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming.


Indonesian Jayus - foreign language words that cant be directly translated to English

Jayus (Indonesian) – a joke told so poorly and that is so unfunny that one can’t help but laugh out loud.


Hawaiian Pana Poʻo - words untranslatable directly to English

Pana Poʻo (Hawaiian) – the act of scratching your head in order to help you remember something you have forgotten.


German Waldeinsamkeit - untranslatable words from around the world

Waldeinsamkeit (German) – a feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connectedness to the nature.


French Depaysement - untranslatable foreign language words

Dépaysement (French) – the feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country, of being a foreigner or an immigrant.

Via Appo High School Library.

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