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Untranslatable Words in Korean and English

November 10, 2014

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It’s time to get learned. In this episode we cover phrases and words in one language that don’t exist in the other, the complicated world of Korean kinship titles, and which British word we completely botched in the last episode of DICKS. Check out the video to see our favourite un-translatable words, and check out our words below for a little more insight into Korean family titles. Tally ho!

가족 호칭 or Family Titles

Instead of calling one’s name, Korean people address another person with 호칭. In English, “aunt” and “uncle” are kind of like 호칭, only in Korean these titles get way more specific. Sure there’s “aunt,” but there’s also “maternal aunt by marriage” and also “husband’s bigger brother.” Someone’s 호칭 tells you how close you are in the family tree and what kind of relationship you have with that person. If you know which title the other person is to you, you instantly know who their parents are, who their children are, and if you are higher or lower than them. You can have numerous 호칭, depending on who is addressing you. This is true in English too. For example, your mother’s brother is your uncle, so you call him “Uncle.” But to your mother, he’s “Brother.” And to your grandfather, he’s “Son.” So to me, my mom’s is “엄마” but to my cousin, she’s “이모.” Confused yet? I tried to make a basic family tree and title name that you call for each family member. 

We have specific titles for older and younger siblings in your immediate family, and of course for your parent’s siblings. 언니 and 오빠 are very common, and not just for family. They could be your own older sister or brother or it could be someone who is a close friend but older. Mostly we put 큰 for older sibling, and 작은 for younger one. Remember how I said there were a billion 호칭? Believe it or not, there are few people missing in these trees, including the spouses of your uncle and aunt. Here are few more that were not in the tree.

Dad’s brother’s wife = 큰 어머니 / 작은 어머니
Dad’s sister’s husband = 고모부
Mom’s brother’s wife =  외숙모
Mom’s sister’s husband = 이모부 
 
As if that wasn’t enough, I have also prepared a tree for married couples’ family names. If you guys ever marry a Korean person this will come in handy.

촌 / 촌수 aka: bridges

촌수 is way to calculate how close you are as family on a family tree. The closest relationship is as a married couple, which is 0 촌. You and your parents are 1 촌, and you and your siblings are 2촌. This is where 삼촌(uncle) comes from, since he is 3 bridges away from you. Also cousins are called 사촌 because they are 4 bridges away. 

Family can be extended and 촌 can be calculated as many as you want, but come on now, if they are over 10 bridges away they are practically the same as a stranger. Koreans think within in 8 bridges people and spouse family as family so outside of we don’t count as family. That is why we say “사돈의 팔촌” when we barely know a person. It means you’re 8-bridges-away cousins of a spouse’s family, which is extremely far. You might as well be strangers.

If you have any questions about this kinda confusing episode or know of any words that you wish translated into other languages, let us know in the comments section below. Hopefully our silly ramblings made sense and maybe you even learned something?

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Untranslatable Words in Korean and English

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  1. oh~ i recognise ‘dapdaphada’ from variety shows, so i get what you mean! i think i usually see Yoo Jae Suk say it!
    i think knowing the family tree and what to specifically call each other is an Asian thing, cos it’s totally the same with me- i’m Bangladeshi! and i remember when i tried so hard as a kid to explain to my friends (who aren’t any sort of Asian) about relatives and what we all have to call each other, they thought it was strange!

    3 years ago
  2. I live in southern Louisiana(in the Acadiana region) and many people around here use Cajun French slang in daily English speech, which can be really confusing for people not from around here lol. The most common word we use is “cher”(pronounced “sha” with a short “a”), and literally translated from French means “dear.” We call everyone cher–people we know really well, people we don’t know at all. It’s basically just a term of endearment to us that’s often used to make a conversation seem more casual. Another one we use often around here is “couyon”, pronounced “koo-yawn,” but with a nasally and almost inaudible “n.” Its meaning can range from mild connotations like “silly” to cruder connotations like “idiot/dumbass.” It can also be used as a noun or adjective. There’s a funny thing about couyon, though. According to my grandmother, our slang word “couyon” comes from the French word “couillon,” which means “testicle.” But, she also said that in standard French “couillon” is used as slang too, but it means something more along the lines of “asshole/dickhead.” I find this really funny because around here, it’s really common to call children “couyon” whenever they do something silly or nonsensical. I always imagine this situation in my head of a person who speaks standard French coming over to southern Louisiana, hearing us call kids “couyons”, and freaking out because they think we called a five-year-old an asshole. XD

    3 years ago
    • Wow that’s funny and very interesting ! As a French, I admit I would be taken aback if I heard a person call a kid “couyon/couillon” haha ! The word “couillon” is definitely rude in French (although sometimes used between friends as a sort of joke).

      3 years ago
  3. I have some words that I feel like translated wrong from Korean into English. I’m an English teacher here in Korea for reference.
    These words are hyung 형, unnie 언니, noona 누나, oppa 오빠 and lastly hagwon 학원.
    In English they would be “brother sister sister brother” and “academy.”
    Now I work at a hagwon. And it’s not an academy. In English academy is just another word for school, interchangeable like university and college are. A better word for it would be cram school or prep school. I still prefer to call it hagwon more than anything.
    As for the the other four words the problem is not with their literal translation–that is correct. My older sister Jessica is my unnie–but so is my cousin Dede and Jenny. they are my unnies too. That’s where the problem is. I have many children telling me about their ‘cousin brother’ like. … no. in English you can’t have a cousin brother you just have a cousin. This man here isn’t your brother, he’s your older male friend. It’s a cultural thing. So I try to explain to my students.. yes you have your brother. and then you have your hyung/oppa. Different types of things.

    As for an English word that doesn’t translate as well into Korean. For me it’s “excuse me”. When I need to get through a tight space, even though I know the slight Korean equivalent to ‘excuse me’ (don’t ask me to spell it, I have no idea) it’s a different kind of concept. So I still just say it in English. It’s much more effective.

    3 years ago
    • “Excuse me” can be translated to “실례하겠음니다”. It’s not used very often but it’s exact equivalent.

      3 years ago
  4. In N.Ireland/Ireland, we have the word ‘craic’ (pn: crack) and it’s mostly translated as “fun” but that’s not the real meaning. It’s difficult to explain because it can mean “to have a good time” so you can say things like “It was brilliant craic.”, “The craic’s ninety!” and so on.

    However, it can also be used in a negative way, when someone does something you think was maybe quite sly or just a dick thing to do, you can also say “That’s bad craic.” The third usage is asking people “What’s the craic?” or “Any craic?” which is like asking if they have any news to tell or if there’s anything going on in their lives at the moment worth knowing about. It’s quite a diverse word, no doubt haha :)

    In Chinese they also have this family title system. I’m here in Shanghai at the moment learning Mandarin and it’s one of the things that makes my head hurt >.<

    3 years ago
    • Hey ! I’m urrently living in Dublin, but I’m from France, and I heard this word “Craic” all the time ! It took me so long to realise what it actually means (and I think I still learn new way to use it every day).
      I have the same problem with the world “grant” that seems to be also used in so many ways in Ireland !

      3 years ago
      • Ah, you mean “grand”? You can take it to mean “fine”. You’ll probably hear “I’m grand.”, “That’s grand.”, “It’ll be grand” <— this last one is used even when the situation is absolutely hopeless, haha.

        "Craic" is one that might take a while to know how to use it correctly, it's quite rare that I hear people who aren't from Ireland using it properly. However, the longer you stay, the better feel you'll get for when and how to use it – soon enough it'll come naturally :3 Hope you're enjoying living there!

        3 years ago
        • Oh yeah I mean grand ! (I only hear it here so didn’t really knew how to spell it)

          And yeah it’s a good “craic” living in Dublin ! xP (Am I right ? Tell me I’m right please xD)

          3 years ago
  5. MLE

    So the actual linguistic term for the problem you’re referring to is “lexical gap(s)” where words in a language have no direct equivalent in another. One example I like from Japanese is “komorebi”, which refers to sunlight filtering through trees/light dappling. In Cantonese there’s a word (I forget what it actually is D:) that refers to the heavy feeling you get when you eat something that’s very fatty/buttery/rich. It isn’t the same as being full, it’s specifically feeling heavy and gross from eating too much of/something that is really rich. It’s so frustrating to not have an equivalent in English!

    3 years ago
  6. In Arabic there’s the word “yaa” which is basically a work you put before someone’s name to call them, and just using it, the person knows you’re calling them, and I think it’s such a useful word. So if I want to call “Soozee” instead of saying “SooooooZeeeeee,” I just say “yaa SooZee” and SooZee will know that I’m calling her.
    The closest translation to “yaa” in English would be “Oh” but it’s too old fashioned of a word and so it really doesn’t retain the same meaning haha :)

    3 years ago
  7. Hi Oxford Student here!
    Thought i’d share the few bits of slang that i’ve picked up since i’ve been here. They’re usually quite specific to Oxford traditions and practices and aren’t used outside of the university typically.

    Scout – Your floor/accomodation’s cleaner. Very wise to befriend them.
    Rusticate – To take a year out. Refers to the olden days of being sent to the country to regain health.
    To be deaned – Verb. To be sent to your college Dean for breaking a rule.
    Hall – The dining hall. A source of good cheap food. Also..
    Formal Hall – A slightly more expensive three course meal served in hall where students must dress in formal wear or gowns (see below)
    Sub Fusc – Your formal gown and cap. Worn to exams and ceremonies (and formal hall in some colleges)
    Battels – Your termly bill to be paid to your college.
    Bop – A disco/party in your college. Usually themed and requires fancy-dress/costumes.
    Bop juice – Cheap punch like drink for sale at a bop. Often vodka mixed with various juices.
    Sconce – The Oxford version of ‘Never Have I Ever’.
    Parents/Brothers/Sisters etc. – Each new student (or fresher) is assigned a set of college “parents” who are “married”. This means you also have “siblings” and “grandparents” and whole family trees. Use of these terms without airquotes can lead to interesting conversations such as “Saw my mum in the club last night. She was wasted and getting off with random guys”. Awkward.

    3 years ago
    • Oh and my British word which is hard to explain is ‘cheeky’. It means to be annoying or rude but in an endearing or tolerable way. Very useful for describing younger siblings and small children. :)

      3 years ago
  8. A great but untranslateable Dutch word is “gezellig”. It’s an adjective that describes a cozy, comfy, nice, warm, fun, friendly atmosphere. It’s really hard to try and say all the things it could mean but it’s good and positive. When you liked a party, it was “gezellig”. When someone says they’re going on a holiday to Italy, you could tell them: “oh! gezellig!” Not sure what the origin of the word is, but “gezel” is an oldfashioned word meaning ‘companion’.

    3 years ago
    • I wanted to comment about “gezellig” but I saw your comment so I guess I’ll just put my “addition” to your explanation over here. ^.^

      I just want to add that you can use “gezellig” also as an adjective. For example a “gezellig” person, is a person that’s nice to be with, has a warm personality and the like. (sometime though, it’s used (sometimes sarcastically) to imply that a person is a little big/round/short, because it would be rude to just say “she was very fat”)

      You can basically call anything “gezellig”, even if it sounds a little weird, most Dutch will understand what you’re trying to say. A “gezellig” house, a “gezellig” jumper, a “gezellig” road trip, and more, more and more. It’s a very useful word in my opinion!

      3 years ago
  9. Another word from Dutch/German that cannot be translated into English is ‘Pechvogel’. Pech = bad luck, vogel= bird. It refers to a person that experiences and attracts a lot of bad luck.

    3 years ago
  10. I think in the Netherlands it would be the word: Gezellig.
    Because its meaning greatly depends on who you ask, because it greatly depends on a feeling. You can feel like hanging out with a big group of friends is gezellig, others feel that it isn’t and find hanging out with only a few people is gezellig. Even furniture can be seen as gezellig. Or being together in the face of danger can be gezellig because it brings you closer. A big party with thousands of people can also be gezellig.
    It basically means that something gives you a good feeling. And it can be used in all kinds of situations and even ironically/sarcastic.
    And because it is really about a personal feeling it is really hard to find a correct translation in English for it, convivial comes closest but doesn’t come close to the many things we use it for. Because what one person finds gezellig another person might find ongezellig (which is the negative form of it). Some Scandinavian and Germanic countries have words that are similar or come close.

    3 years ago
    • I agree! Gezellig says so much and yet so little. :’) It’s a word we abuse to great lengths.

      3 years ago
  11. There are two words I can think of from Sweden that are hard to translate:

    The most famous one is lagom… lagom is mostly translated as “just enough”, but it is used so much in our language. Lagom kind of comes from the idea that there shouldn’t bee too much or too little, but this mid-setion which is perfect. In which, the temperature can be “lagom” the spicy food could be “lagom” spicy, the weather could be “lagom” sunny. It is kind of the soul of a huge part of our culture, which says that we shouldn’t want too much, but same time we should be allowed to have a piece of the share.

    The second word is fika. Fika is kind of a coffee break or like the British afternoon tea. The thing with fika is that we do this, a lot. People who move to work in Sweden react to the fact that we have 2 breaks, one between morning and lunch, and one after lunch and before we end work. This is usually accompanied with the idea of drinking some tea/coffee and maybe eating some bun or cookie.

    But fika can also mean meeting. We have a lot of cafés in Sweden, which is a common place to meet. If you want to hang with your friend, the simplest thing is to suggest a fika, if you want a date you can go to fika. Being out in town you can take a break by fika… literally, it’s an allround word.

    Another abbreviation of fika is to meet up at someone’s home. Here your friend/host will have made coffee/tea and hopefully homebake.

    Fika is something we can do many, or just you and a friend. In short, I cannot really describe it well because it’s just too big for vocabulary. but, since I am in China I really miss it. The cafés here are more like bars, and it’s not the same. And I miss my oven too, but that’s another thing.

    3 years ago
    • There’s this place underneath the Mirae Asset Building in Jong-ro in Seoul called “Fika” and not only does it look super cozy, but it’s also got a really cool design aesthetic. Now it all makes sense! I have to go find out if it’s actually run by Swedes…purely for science, of course.

      3 years ago
  12. One thing that I always found very interesting about English is that there isn’t a word for “enjoy your food”. In Hebrew, the word is “beh teh-avon”. So when you sit down to a meal everyone would say “beh teh-avon” to each other. I think it is also a way to give thanks to the cook before the meal because it literally means “in good taste”. I would always feel awkward at dinner with Americans because I would not know what to say. Do other countries have this word?

    3 years ago
    • In the UK we use the french ‘Bon Appetit’, but that’s usually said by the person serving or cooking. We just give the cook a direct compliment, eat everything on the plate or asking for the recipe. Just making ‘mmmm this so good sounds’ or if they are coking ‘it’s smells so good’. We definitely prefer the direct compliment.

      3 years ago
  13. I was thinking about what untranslatable words we have, etc. Came up with quite a few. However I think the most interesting ones are related to education.

    For example. We have different words for studying at school and studying at university. When you are in school you use “mokytis” which would literally translate to “to learn” and in university “studijuoti” which translates to “study/research”.
    And a Lithuanian uni. student could get insulted if asked “kur mokaisi?” (where are you ‘learning’?).

    Also we’d never call a professor a teacher. nor we’d call auditorium a class. same goes for lectures. I’ve heard quite a few native English speakers say that they have this or that class (in universtiy). in Lithuanian in school you have “pamokos” (lit.trans. “where they teach you something”) in university “paskaitos” (lit.tr. “where someone reads something”). And you should never mix them up. It could insult someone.

    On top of that, there is a strict differentiation between schools(mokykla), colleges(koledžas) and universities(universitetas). You’d Never call college or university a school. Nor would you call a university a college. (universities are considered to be way more superior to colleges :/)

    I experienced a light cultural shock when I first realized that native English speakers don’t really care about differentiating these. I was wondering, how is it in Korea?

    3 years ago
    • Oh, and usually the people who instruct you in college or university are professors or instructors. A professor is usually someone with a doctorate, though you can call someone with decades of teaching experience a professor too even if they don’t have a doctorate.

      I’ve never heard anyone use “auditorium” to mean a class/course/lecture, in the US. An auditorium is a place where you can go for a lecture or other speaking event, but not the lecture itself ( we have auditorium (buildings/very large rooms) in high schools for school announcements and graduations and things like that ).

      3 years ago
    • I know I certainly make a difference between these things. A university and a college in the US are not always interchangeable. A university is usually a larger place with international students, generally a larger range of courses and degrees possible to get, etc. A college can be a community college ( usually funded by the government and anyone is welcome ) or a regular college which may have a more specific area of curriculum and may have guidelines for accepting students ( GPA, SAT score, etc ). Where I live, there are 2 community colleges, 1 regular college ( liberal arts curriculum mostly ), and 1 university ( private, Christian, and international ). A bit further away is a cosmetology school ( see below ). Colleges and universities can be public or private as well, like the university here that requires attendance to some religious events because it was founded by Seventh-Day Adventists ( Christians ). Students have to show up to a short prayer session a certain number of times a year, though this isn’t universal for all private religious ones. [ They don’t force you to become Christian though, or reject students because they aren’t religious. ] Public colleges and universities get more money from the government and therefore do not have any religious requirements, though universities usually get generous donations from alumni where colleges usually don’t.

      There are also technical and vocational colleges ( also called schools ), such as cosmetology school which is where you learn to become a hairdresser and/or esthetician, or a culinary school where you learn to cook/bake/other aspects of food service. They are post-secondary, but calling them schools is just the most common colloquial term.

      3 years ago
    • I know there are universities and technical schools or trade schools in Korea, and they have very different statuses. It was a bit confusing to me at first, since college and uni (and even junior college) in America are pretty much the same thing, and I insulted quite a few people before I figured it out. Luckily in Korea almost everyone goes to a university (82%, I think? I read that somewhere…) so you don’t have to differentiate :)

      3 years ago
  14. Since I’m living in England there are so many occasions where I’m trying desperately to explain an expression from Norwegian to English and it just doesn’t really translate well. But of course the only one that I can remember right now is the expression : å skjenke noen. It is to try and get someone drunk without them noticing. Basically just keep giving them drinks or topping up their glass while distracting them or despite their protests. Mostly used in innocent ways among friends to get someone to loosen up or stay longer at a party. It is not something you would say you are doing but it could be used as a way of describing a situation mostly.
    See. Difficult to explain properly….

    3 years ago
    • ‘Topping them up’ is the phrase we would use in the UK, everyone will know what you mean when combined with sly smile.

      3 years ago
  15. So… this is my first comment. In Gujarati we have specific designations too.
    Mother’s sister= masi
    Mother’s sister’s husband= masa
    Mother’s brother= mama
    Mother’s brother’s wife= mami
    Father’s sister= fai
    Father’s sister’s husband= fua
    Father’s brother= kaka
    Father’s brother’s wife= kaki
    Mother’s mother= nani
    Mother’s father= nana
    Father’s mother= dadi
    Father’s father= dada
    And so on and so forth. If you have an exteded relative you join two words. Sorry for the long comment!

    3 years ago
    • Gujarati has a lot of similarities to Marathi :)

      3 years ago
      • Yeah, I live in Mumbai right now so I know a bit of marathi but not that much

        3 years ago
  16. I remember SooZee saying in one episode that there was no English equivalent word for ‘keureom’ (sorry I don’t know how to spell it!) but in Marathi we say ‘asach’ which roughly translates to ‘just like that’. For example somebody could ask me “Tu kes ka kaples ga?” (Why did you cut your hair?) and I would say “asach” meaning, in this case, “just because I felt like it”.

    3 years ago
    • Ok sorry I meant to say ‘keunyang’ and said ‘keureom’ instead! Sorry! (Winning no points with the learning Korean today :P)

      3 years ago
    • Which reminds me, in Marathi (and in some other Indian languages like Tamil and Kannada) people use gender specific suffixes (I’m saying suffixes but I really don’t know how to explain this in English grammar). For example, the phrase I used in the above comment ‘tu kes ka kaples?’ translates simply to ‘why did you cut your hair?’. The tone its spoken in is informal, so if I’m speaking to a girl, I would say, ‘tu kes ka kaples ga?’ adding the “ga” (pronounced ‘guh’) to the end of the phrase. If I was addressing a guy I would add “re” as in ‘tu kes ka kaples re?’. “re” and “ga” don’t add any additional meaning to the phrase except signify that they are being addressed to a boy and girl respectively.

      Similar male and female suffixes are found in Tamil (da/ ma) that I know of.

      3 years ago
  17. One of my favorite untranslatable words from German is ‘Kummerspeck’ (lit. “grief bacon”), which means “excess weight from emotional overeating”. I think ‘Zeitgeist’ is also pretty untranslateable. I found a nice gallery about similar words:

    http://www.thelocal.de/galleries/news/ten-untranslatable-german-words-local-list

    3 years ago
    • Grief bacon! That’s BRILLIANT!

      3 years ago
      • Zeitgeist and Schadenfreude are such excellent words that we have “adopted” them into common English usage. Now, whether we use them the same way as the Germans, remains to be seen. Same problem with French. We’ve adopted many words that are not used the same way in French, leading to serious communication problems. Believe me, I’ve run into those.

        3 years ago
  18. We also have specific words for (mother’s sisters & brothers) and (father’s sisters & brothers) in Arabic.

    Mother’s sister = khala (خالة).
    Mother’s brother = khali (خالي).
    Father’s sister = aama (عمة).
    Father’s brother = aami (عمي).

    We do have many Arabic words that can’t be translated to English but I can’t remember now.

    3 years ago
  19. you have probably heard this before, but in sweden we have this word called “lagom” and it pretty much means “just the right amount”

    3 years ago
  20. In Poland we have a subculture named “dresiarze”. There is no english word for that, and if i had to eksplain to someone what does that mean, i would lost in this term. But i will try. I gues that you can say for “dresiarz” in english is “scally”, but this is not the same. Those people often wear sweatsuits, fight after football games, they are a stereotypical rude “people” [yes, they often are not consider as a humans], drinking a lot, steal, and basically they are making a lot of bad things. Tere are exceptions of them, but not so often.

    3 years ago
    • I actualy think you are wrong. It is not untranslatable word, it’s just slang term for “hooligan”, “scally”, “shinhead”, something like this. Its not proper polish term. I am sure there is a lot of untranslatable polish words but this one is just… not right example ^^

      3 years ago
    • I guess you get them everywhere. And everywhere they have different names.
      Here in Lithuania they have 4 names: Skinai (from eng. “skinheads”), Forsai (from eng. force) and Marozai (Russian Мароз), gezai/geziukai (I have no idea where This one came from, but supposedly this was a term used for Dutch partisans in the 1566 revolt… I have no idea if this is where the word was taken from).
      And basically the “skinai” are a bit different from the other 3. they are more aggressive, more conservative, racist, over-the-top nationalistic. as for the other 3 names, they simply describe hooligans in sweatsuits (stripes are a must on them)

      3 years ago
  21. In Norway we have a word for drinking a beer outside it’s called “utepils”. I haven’t heard a direct translation yet!

    3 years ago
  22. In Philippines, Bayanihan is Hard to Translate. (It’s Kind of Similar to Cooperation/Cooperative.)

    3 years ago
  23. SooZEE I love your haircut! Leigh I think I might have saw you at the E-Dae Metro stop when I was in Seoul.. heeheh…^^

    I am so glad you talked about 답답하다….when I was in Korean one of my friends said that and I was like.. what does it mean? and they were like “stuffy” and I was like 응? so now it makes sooo much more sense! Yay!

    3 years ago
    • Yup, that probably was me. Was I rocking out full-tilt with goofy headphones on? Because that is one looooooooong escalator and I usually can’t handle the boredom without MA JAMZ.

      3 years ago
      • Well if it was you, you were very fast moving… it was like ZIIIIIPPPP….. …”Was that Leigh?” By the time my brain pondered whether or not it might be you and thought mayhaps I should say “Leigh!?!?!” or “You so Nasty!” you were already gone. hehe

        3 years ago
    • *Korea… no edit button, eh? ㅋㅋㅋ

      3 years ago
  24. That was really interesting as usual !
    Now obviously I can’t come up with any example of French words that don’t really translate in English haha. *think think*
    But there’s this article about some French idioms/expressions that can’t be translated (because they’re just too weird and random): http://uk.businessinsider.com/10-idioms-only-the-french-understand-2014-10

    3 years ago
    • hehe love the list of idioms xD. I used to live in France so it amuses me greatly. =D
      After seeing your reply I thought of some French examples – though they’re probably more like idioms/expressions than words..

      1. l’ésprit d’escalier – this refers to that moment when long after you’ve had an argument with someone and you finally think of something clever to say … but alas it’s too late.

      2. Chanter en yaourt/yaourter – literally ‘to sing in yoghurt’ or ‘to yoghurt’ – this one refers to when you’re trying to sing a song in a language you don’t know and you end up just making sounds that are kind of like what the right ones are.

      There are more, I know but I cannot think of any at the moment. >.<

      3 years ago
      • I’m not sure if this counts but there are, also, of course French words that if you translated literally into English it would make no sense. The first time I heard ‘soutien-gorge’ (the word for bra, which literally translates to: throat support) I was really confused! When I was in France teaching English, all of the foreign teachers had to have a medical check-up when we arrived and we had chest x-rays done and so the nurse said to remove my ‘soutien-gorge’ and I was like O___o what? I had to resort to looking it up in a dictionary lol. :P

        oh also, I’m not quite sure if “quand même” is translatable? Oh and “vachement” Though I guess it can be translated as “very”? Hmm.. It took me a while to understand “quand même” when I was first in France.

        3 years ago
        • @MidnightRaspberry: It won’t let me reply to your comment directly so I’m gonna answer like this. =)
          hahah I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was a weird word =P. Yeah, I was never sure in the beginning and even now Idk if I could apply just one word that goes with it… I always thought ‘vachement’ was a weird word too, because I was like, ‘isn’t ‘vache’ a cow???’ lol. It doesn’t make sense to me :P. Also, a borrowed English word that I think is a bizarre choice is ‘shampooing’ Now, why not just say ‘shampoo’?

          3 years ago
        • Hahaha that’s so true, “soutien-gorge” makes no sense, I had also thought about it once ! Although, now that you’re talking about it, I don’t know/understand what the English word “bra” is supposed to mean either…(Okay, I just looked it up, it’s short for “brassiere” – well that makes sense now ha !)
          I’d say “quand même” could be translated as “still” in some cases, but you’re right, there doesn’t seem to be any equivalent word in English.

          3 years ago
  25. What if you want to talk to your 오빠 but there are 8 of your 오빠 ’s (don’t know the plural of 오빠 – what is the plural of 오빠 ? is there a collective noun for 오빠 s ? (my favourites, A wisdom of Wombats, an Unkindness of Ravens and clutter of spiders…digressing )) in a room and you call out 오빠 and all 8 오빠 (’s) go 네 then you have to wade through all your 오빠 ’s to the one you want to talk to? Or is there an easier way?

    3 years ago
    • Sorry, missed the last part. You’d call them by their name with oppa on the end. If the one you want to talk to is named Tim you’d say “Tim oppa”, if his name is Dongjun you would say “Dongjun oppa”. If they’re younger you’d just say Tim-gun or Dongjun-ah, and if you’re not good friends you’d add sshi on the end ( Tim-sshi ) no matter their age ( I think… ).

      3 years ago
    • You use 들 ( deul ) to mean multiple people. So 오빠들 ( oppa-deul ) would be the right thing to say. But you can still just say oppa if you want, according to this:

      “Korean does not grammatically distinguish between singular and plural nouns. Thus, while 사람들 (saramdeul) means “people”, 사람 (saram) can mean either “person” or “people”, depending on context.

      들 (deul) is rarely used with nouns denoting inanimate objects. It is more often used with nouns denoting animate objects (people and animals), but then only when it is semantically necessary to make a distinction between singular and plural, or to emphasize plurality.”

      3 years ago
  26. OMG I love this topic! I am a Malaysian (Chinese/Eurasian background) who studied in Melbourne, Australia and currently residing for the last 6 months in the Netherlands with my Malaysian (Indian background) husband. I love how cultures and languages mesh together and when you understand the culture, you understand the language so much more!

    A friend in my language class said that she once heard from her Dutch friend that her aunt passed away and so in English said “I’m so sorry for you.” the Dutch friend then said “Oh its not your fault so there’s no need to apologize.”

    The word sorry in Dutch is only for apologies in wrongdoing and I don’t know what the appropriate Dutch phrase would be (teach me, I am learning!).

    My favourite word in Dutch is “lekker”! It means tasty but its used in so many contexts. Its much like the English/Australian usage of “lovely” which is sort of a blanket word for anything you want to describe as amazing. So you can have a lekker meal while having a lekker sitting in the sunshine while enjoying the lekker weather!

    Something else I found interesting is that saying in the Dutch language someone is independent sounds weird. You could say it but it sounds strange and no one ever says it. I often wondered if this has got to do with the culture itself where everyone IS independent and an un-independent person is unthinkable? But that’s just my two cents. Its so interesting to me since I come from a culture where dependence is not considered a bad thing, taking care of one another (especially in family) is considered to be a more desirable quality then being completely independent.

    In the Malay (possibly Indonesian too) language there are many one word phrases/figures of speech that are used to express an emotion which I find so handy. They seem to be a little dated to be still used but the older generation or villagey places its still used. The key is in the intonation and I don’t know any other language that does the same (yet).

    Amboi = response to something beautiful or adorable (Eg: Amboi, cantiknya baju! = Amboi, you are wearing nice clothes!) or it can also be used insultingly (eg: amboi, banyak cantik muka engkau! = you think you’re so pretty!)

    Alamak! = Exclamation when something unexpectedly (negative) happens but its not so serious (Eg: Alamak, saya lupa bawa kunci! = I forgot to bring my keys!)

    There are a few more that I had to learn in school but I have forgotten them now because they are not commonly used.

    There’s also something called “latah” in the Malay language which the closest translation in English is “going into hysterics”. Its basically uttering gibberish when something startles you or dropping something you are holding. Both my grandmothers did this and its always the same string of gibberish and/or combination with some old school swear words! The closest thing I can compare it to is saying “oopsy daisy” when you drop something. Mostly only the older generation does this but somehow I managed to pick this habit up too since I was raised by my grandmothers.

    3 years ago
    • Dutch person to the rescue! First of all, if someone passes away in English the correct phrase would be “I’m sorry for your loss” right? I think that the “I am sorry for you” was translated in the Dutch person’s mind into “het spijt me”, which would indeed be weird to say when you’ve lost a loved one. The correct phrase in Dutch would be “Gecondoleerd” which is the word for “I’m sorry for your loss”. It’s just one word, nifty right? I hope you can use this. ^^

      3 years ago
    • Oh and I forgot to mention the all famous “lah” used all over Malaysia and Singapore.

      Its another word that is hard to define but so good to use for emphasis in a sentence. Its used across every ethnic group in this region whether it be the Malay/Chinese/Indian languages.

      Don’t go there LAH! — Seriously, don’t go there.

      Come LAH! — You are taking too long! or please come coz its so much more fun with you there!

      Mai siao LAH! – Don’t be crazy!

      OK lah. – said in a low tone it means OK but I don’t really want to or I’m not sure about this decision.

      OK LAH! – I’m saying OK because I want you to be quiet :p

      The intonation is so important! :P

      3 years ago
  27. I really enjoyed this video! such interesting facts about the family titles… in German, we pretty much just have the standard ones you would find in English— but we do have a couple of untranslatable words ^^ most of them describe a very specific feeling, like “Wanderlust” (feeling a need to see the world and travel) which I think has been adapted into English by now, or “Weltschmerz” (a very complex emotion of feeling the `pain of the world´, or melancholy over the amount of desperation in the world which we cannot change). But then again, I was also able to learn many English words which we don’t have- like being “sorry” for someone (so useful!) and my fav “petrichor” ^^

    3 years ago
  28. I’m Danish and especially in the start of learning English it confused me when american/english people said cousin, in Denmark i’ve grown up with Gender specific words for cousin, if it’s a girl “kusine” and a boy “fætter”, so i didn’t understand how one words could be both.

    we have
    Aunt: tante
    uncle: onkel.
    fathers sister: faster
    Mothers sister: moster
    fathers brother: farbror
    Mothers brother: Morbror.

    I personally only use uncle instead of farbror and Morbror.
    but with the female words I differentiate.

    3 years ago
    • The distinctions did exist in old English or Anglo-Saxon times but died out sometime in the transition to Middle English or Early Modern English; so it would have been níedmáge for a close female cousin and níedmæg for a male.

      3 years ago
    • Omg in Indonesian, we say tante for aunt too :)

      3 years ago
  29. It’s similar in Indian languages too! Since I didn’t grow up around most of my extended family (we moved when I was young), I didn’t grow up calling them by the titles in Tamil, but I learned some of them over the years. It’s quite interesting how English can have one term that encompasses a gazillion terms in another language haha!

    3 years ago
  30. Speaking of scarves and winter stuff, I was looking through the new winter products and I noticed Martina’s keyboard. I thought that it would be awesome if you guys sold keyboard stickers with EYK stuff and/or Korean syllables key placements for both PC and MAC users. I know I would totally buy something like that.

    Thank you so much for reading this.

    3 years ago
  31. Yay for the family tree diagrams; thank you for all of the wonderful videos. Although I would like to point out that the font is so tiny! I am a total noob at Korean; may I request bigger font and possibly a video with the words pronounced?

    3 years ago
    • Right click on the pictures, choose “Copy Image Location”, then open a new tab and paste it there. Erase the part at the end after .png and hit Enter to go there, and it’ll be full size. =)

      3 years ago
    • Yes, and also if next to the korean spelling you could write out the way you say the word in western letters as well? I still don’t read korean so this would help me in the process of learning.

      3 years ago
  32. I live in Egypt and there are quite a few words in Arabic you can’t translate into English and they vary by where you live in the Arab world. In Egypt we use the word “zifir” (verb) or “zafara” (noun) to describe something that has a distinct smell or taste. Eggs, chicken, fish can be notorious for having a “zifir” smell. It sort of means fishy, but it can mean eggy. It seems to have something to do with non-fresh protein hitting the air or something.

    3 years ago
  33. When I was growing up, my family would have close friends that we were taught to call them uncle/aunty, even though they were not related to us. It was kinda like a respect thing as well as a sign of them being accepted into the family. I’m not sure where my family got it from but I was wondering if there was something in Korean, like I know that you call someone your aunt or ajjummas as a sign of respect to someone older, but is their something special fro close fiends of the family?

    3 years ago
  34. Do either one of you know any other lang. Besides Korean and English? It would be interesting to how Korean Words are translated into something like spanish.

    3 years ago
  35. In russian we have the word “toska” wich has no translation into English. The meaning of carries someting along the lines of deep spiritual anguish or/and an unexpressible longing for something/someone. Pretty depressing, right? :p

    In America, middle names are chosen for a child, while in Russian culture you’re middle name derives from your father’s name. For example, a fathers name is Leonid, so the daughters middle name will automatically be Leonidovna, and the sons middle name would be Leonidovich. It is basically taking the dads name and adding an ending to it to nake it feminine or masculine :) when you speak to your teachers or people older than you, instead of saying Mr/Mrs”last name”, or aunt/uncle, we call them by their first and middle name to show respect (so like: Nataliya Leonidovna. Order is first name, middle name). You also use formal speech, sort of the equivalent of adding the “요” in korean :) if you dont know them personally by name, you can adress them as man, or woman but still use formal speech if they are older than you.

    3 years ago
    • To some extent, English culture does maintain the whole ‘passing down names’ thing, but it’s a lot less formal or structured than Russian, partly because of its history. So for example, my grandfather is named John Alexander, my dad is called John D. (his middle name is Donald), so kinda like the whole ‘John Jr.’ thing, then my cousin’s name is John Dylan (who we just call Dylan…). So apparently in my grandparents’ days, their parents would name multiple siblings the same name, with middle names being the difference: John A(lexander), John G(raham), John M(urdoch), etc. and so with the high mortality rate of children, then at least one son would be likely to pass on the name…

      3 years ago
    • Even in some Indian cultures, for example mine (I’m Maharashtrian) the middle name is your father’s name. So my first name is Ruchi, my last name is Sawardekar and my middle name is my dad’s name, Nitin. So my full name is Ruchi Nitin Sawardekar. Similarly my dad’s name is Nitin Narahar Sawardekar (Narahar being his dad’s name). And a slightly sexist tradition that women are now choosing to not do is that when a woman gets married, she takes her husband’s last name and his name becomes her middle name. For example, my mother’s name is Mohini Nitin Sawardekar.

      3 years ago
  36. SooZee, the terms/titles that establish a person’s place in the social hierarchy are called honorifics, and you’re right, we don’t really have them in English.

    3 years ago
  37. Another Korean word that comes to mind is 고소해! Unbelievably hard to find a way to describe that to my English-speaking friends…

    3 years ago
    • So true! It’s very, very specific. We tried to teach it to explain it to Martina when we ate goat stew on our road trip, but I think we just confused her. Have you figured out a way?

      3 years ago
  38. The family tree is EXTREMELY complicated in Chinese as well! We also have specific names for each of your relatives. Here’s a youtube video that will explain it all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1HaZ4WLo50

    3 years ago
    • yeah this comes to mind. its funny how people find the chinese family tree extremely complicated, but to most chinese people (like myself), we find that since the western culture do not have such titles, its hard to understand the relationship of certain distant relatives when we meet them.

      3 years ago
  39. My favorite word that English doesn’t have an equivalent for is schadenfreude. That joy or relief you feel when something bad happens to somebody not you. Everyone feels it at some point and the Germans gave us a word for it :)

    3 years ago
    • I believe the word Schadenfreude is also ‘widely’ used in English as a loan from German. :) Dutch also has this word, leedvermaak. (and this doesn’t sound like German/Norwegian at all.. but the meaning is exactly the same)

      3 years ago
    • Since Norwegian is very similar to German we also have this word. Skadefryd!

      3 years ago
      • I usually experience Skadefryd if i told someone to not do something and they end up doing it anyways, and then it ends horribly :)

        3 years ago
    • Arabic has a word for it too “shamata”

      3 years ago
  40. First! Yay :)

    Most Indian languages have the same family-title system as Korea. For example, in my mothertongue Marathi:

    Mom: Aai
    Dad: Baba
    Older Brother: Dada (similar to Oppa I’m guessing?)
    Older brother’s wife: Vahini
    Older Sister: Tai (similar to Unni)
    Mom’s sister: Maushi
    Mom’s brother: Mama
    Mom’s brother’s wife: Mami
    Dad’s sister: Atya
    Dad’s brother: Kaka
    Dad’s brother’s wife: Kaki

    Grandfather: Ajoba
    Grandmother: Aji

    Usually when you address someone (except your parents) you say their name and then the title, eg Nima Atya or Preeti Maushi.

    3 years ago